Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Not the kind of headline you like to read these days, with the conflicts in Syria, Ukraine and Israel now sharing the international spotlight with the growing Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

We’re constantly measuring the attention paid to nearly 200+ diseases and conditions, including Ebola.  The Ebola viral outbreak is currently generating a TrendSignal value of 72 for July 2014, up +1 point over June.  A media score of 72 is quite high, considered strong in our media scoring methodology.

But here’s where it gets interesting.  There is absolutely no apparent commercial value in monitoring and measuring Ebola media coverage.  Of course there’s coverage, a lot of it.  But there’s no business entity with a solution play in this viral area.  Possibly governmental organizations have a vested interest in monitoring media coverage which does have an affect upon the perception of disease outbreaks.  But commercial interest is dubious at best.

So why do we measure topics and trends such as Ebola?

We measure Ebola coverage in order to create a statistically valid media landscape from which we can gauge relative media prominence.  In all its flavor, the media business is a zero-sum game.  Resources allocated to Ebola are not available to cover other trends and topics.  If a hurricane hits Florida and we’re facing mid-term elections, Pfizer’s decline in media coverage during that same period may have nothing to do with Pfizer.  It may just be an artifact of current media dynamics.

Here’s a 12-month growth picture of Ebola coverage:

Here’s the same 12-month growth picture relative to the top conditions and diseases over the same media cycle.

Like almost every business metric, relative change measures provide context and perspective.  They give meaning to what is essentially just a number.  Importance, prominence, advancing, declining, leading, following, in-trouble, performing above the industry, etc.  These types of statements follow relative measure approaches.

Without Ebola’s media counts – and the counts of 4000+ other emerging and trending subjects, we would have no idea how much media opportunity was available at any point in time.  We measure Ebola and nearly 4000+ other topics, trends, brands and influencers because they help paint the evolving media landscape.

With a comprehensive media landscape complete, here’s the specific Ebola media profile from our latest data refresh in August:

For some perspective, take a look at just how much Ebola has outpaced every single condition and disease discussion in the media this month:

And the prior month growth figure of +1 point is quite deceptive as the story has been unfolding over a few months now.  The more meaningful media impact figure is the 6-month TrendSignal growth metric along with the rank change versus other conditions and diseases (+62 positions over the prior year).