Infoveillance of the Croatian Online Media During the COVID-19 Pandemic: One-Year Longitudinal Study Using Natural Language Processing

JMIR Public Health Surveill. 2021 Dec 24;7(12):e31540. doi: 10.2196/31540.


Background: Online media play an important role in public health emergencies and serve as essential communication platforms. Infoveillance of online media during the COVID-19 pandemic is an important step toward gaining a better understanding of crisis communication.

Objective: The goal of this study was to perform a longitudinal analysis of the COVID-19-related content on online media based on natural language processing.

Methods: We collected a data set of news articles published by Croatian online media during the first 13 months of the pandemic. First, we tested the correlations between the number of articles and the number of new daily COVID-19 cases. Second, we analyzed the content by extracting the most frequent terms and applied the Jaccard similarity coefficient. Third, we compared the occurrence of the pandemic-related terms during the two waves of the pandemic. Finally, we applied named entity recognition to extract the most frequent entities and tracked the dynamics of changes during the observation period.

Results: The results showed no significant correlation between the number of articles and the number of new daily COVID-19 cases. Furthermore, there were high overlaps in the terminology used in all articles published during the pandemic with a slight shift in the pandemic-related terms between the first and the second waves. Finally, the findings indicate that the most influential entities have lower overlaps for the identified people and higher overlaps for locations and institutions.

Conclusions: Our study shows that online media have a prompt response to the pandemic with a large number of COVID-19-related articles. There was a high overlap in the frequently used terms across the first 13 months, which may indicate the narrow focus of reporting in certain periods. However, the pandemic-related terminology is well-covered.

Keywords: COVID-19; infodemic; infodemiology; infoveillance; longitudinal study; name entity recognition; natural language processing; news coverage; online media; pandemic.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Humans
  • Infodemiology
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Natural Language Processing
  • Pandemics
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Social Media*