Scraping Spiegel articles using {newsanchor}

One convenient use of {newsanchor} is to use it to scrape the articles’ content. Our package is of great help because it provides you with the corresponding URLs.


Almost a year ago, we (a team at CorrelAid) published our first open source package for R on CRAN: {newsanchor}. It queries the API of and allows you to easily download the articles relating to your search query of a range of popular international news outlets. Results include a variety of meta data, the URLs as well as (depending on whether you have a paid plan or not) parts of the article content. You can find all information needed reading its vignette. I also wrote an introductory blog post which you can find here.

One convenient use of {newsanchor} is to use it to scrape the articles’ content. Our package is of great help because it provides you with the corresponding URLs. It is fairly easy to build a scraper upon that. Here, I have to mention that vast parts of the following code stem from Jan Dix who, like me, co-authored the package. He wrote a scraper for the New York Times, it was originally to be included as a vignette of {newsanchor} (it had to be removed because of dependecy trouble, though). What I did was to build on his code and add another example for the popular German news magazine Spiegel.

[Note: There is code for a progress bar in the following chunk. It is commented out so the R-Markdown output would be easier to read]

# Load packages required
library(newsanchor) # download newspaper articles
library(robotstxt)  # get robots.txt
library(httr)       # http requests
suppressMessages(library(rvest))      # web scraping tools
suppressMessages(library(dplyr))      # easy data frame manipulation
library(stringr)    # string/character manipulation 
# Get headlines published by SPON using newsanchor (example)
response <- get_everything_all(query   = "Merkel",
                                 sources = "spiegel-online",
                                 from    = Sys.Date() - 3,
                                 to      = Sys.Date())
# Extract response data frame
articles <- response$results_df

# Check robots.txt if scraping is OK
suppressMessages(allowed <- paths_allowed(articles$url))

# Define parsing function
get_article_body <- function (url) {
  # Download article page
  response <- GET(url)
  # Check if request was successful
  if (response$status_code != 200) return(NA)
  # Extract HTML
  html <- content(x        = response, 
                  type     = "text", 
                  encoding = "UTF-8")
  # Parse html
  parsed_html <- read_html(html)                   
  # Define paragraph DOM selector
  selector <- "div.clearfix p"
  # Parse content
  parsed_html %>% 
    html_nodes(selector) %>%      # extract all paragraphs within class 'article-section'
    html_text() %>%               # extract content of the <p> tags
    str_replace_all("\n", "") %>% # replace all line breaks
    paste(collapse = " ")         # join all paragraphs into one string

# Apply function to all URLs
# Create new text column
articles$body <- NA
# Initialize progress bar
# pb <- txtProgressBar(min     = 1, 
#                      max     = nrow(articles), 
#                      initial = 1, 
#                      style   = 3)

# Loop through articles and apply function
for (i in 1:nrow(articles)) {
  # Apply function to i in URLS
  articles$body[i] <- get_article_body(articles$url[i])
  ## Update progress bar
  # setTxtProgressBar(pb, i)
  # Sleep for 1 sec

Based on the articles’ content, you can, for example, compute sentiment analyses. Jan shows you how to do that for the New York Times in what was formerly our vignette here. I hope this is useful for some of you.