I’m sometimes asked to clarify why we report TrendSignal values monthly and not on a more frequent basis. As our company name implies, TrendTopics is focused on measuring trends. Not fads. Not one-time events. Not blips. Trends are directional in nature, and therefore contain an element of momentum, i.e., the potential to maintain that direction over a period of time.

So our objective is not simply to measure media activity (mentions), which too many services and applications do, but also to assess media activity over time. Trend assessment is the measurement of media activity over a longer period of time, which enables us to see how the individual media mentions contribute to a broader picture as well as how they interrelate with other media activity.

Here’s a video that illustrates the concept nicely, using the analogy of following the dog versus the dog walker. It provides perspective on the relationship between activities, trends, and time.

If you look at media activity too closely (or too often) this can make everything look frenetic and confusing. It’s not only difficult to draw conclusions about what you’re observing, but those conclusions may be wrong or misleading. Assessing media activity on a monthly interval gives us a clearer and more contextual big picture.

News publishing dynamics, i.e., how media is created, published and consumed, are also driving factors in deciding to assess media activity monthl. Variations in individual media activity are often related to when they occurred. But do you count an article, blog post, or tweet when it was published or when it was consumed?

When something occurs is not always clear when it comes to media. Some media occurs daily, like newspaper articles. Some, like magazines, cycle on a monthly basis.  Still others are quarterly, as in business or science journals. And then there’s real-time media, with Twitter being a great example. So as you can see, taking the media’s pulse must somehow account for the fact that these media channels are not synchronized to the same stopwatch.

But even real-time media has an underlying cycle.  Take the most popular Twitter feed, with millions of followers and thousands of tweets per week.  Is this just some kind of firehose of content being released on the Twitter masses? On the surface yes, but not if you’re the owner of the feed. You carefully manage the release of that data to maximize its distribution and eventual consumption. You take into account time zones, daytime versus nighttime, consumption patterns, competing media sources and feeds, and other market events.

Essentially, these real-time feeds are simply another managed media channel that accounts for the not so real-time nature of human behavior.