Filtrbox Makes Online Buzz-Tracking Affordable

Do you need to keep tabs on what online news makers say about your company, products and competitors? Online media monitoring is now easier and less expensive than ever.

Filtrbox offers an affordable and easy-to-use Web service for tracking what online news makers say about topics of interest to you. It cuts through the online content clutter to focus on what you find relevant: Think of it as Google Alerts (e-mail updates of the latest Google results for your chosen search terms) on steroids.

Filtrbox, which recently emerged from beta testing, isn't quite as ambitious as RelevantNoise, a similar service I wrote about earlier this year. Filtrbox doesn't currently measure the demographics of the bloggers it tracks, nor does it assess psychographics (that is, whether the opinions expressed are positive or negative), though support for the latter is planned for the future.

However, Filtrbox is much less expensive than RelevantNoise. A free edition is good for up to 5 search filters, and paid plans that offer more capacity start at $20 per month for a single user--much less than RelevantNoise's $5000 monthly tab.

Using Filtrbox

Filtrbox is fairly easy to set up and use. A handful of video tutorials provide guidance, but I believe the basic operations are simple enough to understand without this help. Support is offered by a Web community forum and e-mail.

After you sign up for an account, you need to set up at least one Filtr (which, not surprisingly, is just a filter, with the word spelled in a funky way). To do this, you just enter a search term or phrase, much as you would in an Internet search engine.

Your basic search can be modified to include or exclude related terms. You can even import your existing Google Alerts, if you wish.

I like the sliding scale that lets you adjust the level of relevancy (known as Filtr Rank) that you require for articles to display. Filtrbox assigns a rank of 10 to articles it deems highly relevant to your search; those least relevant are ranked 0. You can also decide how far back your article history should go, up to a maximum of one year in a paid plan.

You can drag-and-drop related filters into a group for easier analysis. You can also display a graph showing the number of articles mentioned each day for your search term or terms.

Online news mentions tracked on Filtrbox show that mentions of Apple's new 3G iPhone rose to a fever pitch just before its launch.
The company says Filtrbox searches thousands of mainstream news outlets as well as the blogosphere. You can specify whether you want your Filtrs to track content from Twitter and Friendfeed (this is a global setting, however; you can't change it for individual Filtrs). You can enter a news source's RSS feed to ensure Filtrbox monitors it.

Filtrbox in Action

I didn't see instantaneous results when I created my Filtrs, soon after setting up my account. However, the following morning I received a "Daily Briefing" e-mail showing summaries of the articles my Filtrs had picked up. You can view the complete article by clicking on the summary. You can also review the articles by logging in to the Filtrbox account dashboard or by setting up a FiltrFeed (an RSS feed).

Later, I found that related articles appeared in the dashboard within a few seconds of setting up a Filtr. A new Filtr will display articles from up to the past two weeks, compared with the 90-day history offered by RelevantNoise.

How Much Filtering?

In addition to the free edition of Filtrbox (which gives you up to 5 Filtrs and 15 days of history), the Pro version, which costs $20 per month, allows 25 Filtrs and 45 days of history, and the Team account ($100 per month) provides 100 Filtrs and one year of history, and accommodates up to 6 users. Discounts are available for prepaid annual subscriptions.

If you need help tracking news you need to know, Filtrbox is one good way to handle it--and trying out the free version costs you nothing.

Richard Morochove is an IT consultant and writer. Send him questions about using technology in your connected small to mid-size business via e-mail. PC World may edit your query and cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered.

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