Illinois Public Media

This spring, WILL launched The 21st — 21st-century radio for the 21st state. The hour-long talk show combines relevant news and conversation with audience engagement through phone calls, social media and other digital channels. The 21st is not only facilitating discussion but also helping listeners connect with each other and with information vital to their lives. Veteran journalist and public radio host Niala Boodhoo is the host and executive producer.

What makes this show different is how it is bridging the traditional with the digital. The 21st goes beyond the studio by plugging into digital conversations and is available to all audiences via WILL’s streaming services and mobile app. All are welcome to join the conversation on Twitter (@21stShow) and Facebook (The21stShow).

The desire to engage audiences through social media — and to monitor social media for insights on topics — brought Joe Yun into the conversation, the studio and the classroom.

Yun leads the U of I’s social media analytics initiative and taught a course for the College of Media in social media analytics. He is also a Ph.D. candidate with the Illinois Informatics Institute.

Social media analytics involves gathering data from blogs and social media websites, analyzing that data and making business decisions based on those findings.

The class was taught in four parts:

  • Computational theory — understanding the theory behind the tools
  • Human social network theory — analyzing relationships and the mathematical theories behind them
  • Computational techniques — including sentiment analysis (bringing some kind of order and understanding to large bodies of text), topic modeling (clouds and pull outs of specific topics) and text mining and language processing
  • The tools — once students understand how the tools work, they know which tools work best for which analysis

For their final project, the students chose a company, product, brand or trending news topic on which to perform analysis. They worked to develop questions to ask about their selection, to chose the appropriate method for analysis, to pull the insights uncovered from that analysis and to make recommendations on a course of action.

The topics selected by the teams include Free Kesha and the movement’s impact on Sony’s reputation, how MAP grants and Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner are being discussed on social media, and the TV show “The Bachelor.”

Boodhoo attended the final presentations and offered feedback. The groups pitched their insights as stories for the show.

Each group was able to make recommendations based on its analysis. More importantly, the students understood the relationship between social media analysis and business decision making — a skill they can take into the real world.

story meeting at WILL

Did you know...

The University of Illinois played a pivotal role in the development of public broadcasting in the United States. Illinois Public Media is an important element of the University’s public engagement activities. Our community benefits from the high-quality news, information and entertainment produced and provided by public media. Our students benefit from working directly with experts in news gathering and production.