Controlled Vocabularies for the Media

 IPTC creates and maintains sets of concepts – called controlled vocabularies or taxonomies – to be assigned as metadata values to news objects like text, photographs, graphics, audio and video files and streams. This allows for a consistent coding of news metadata across news providers and over the course of time – that’s the reason why we call them IPTC NewsCodes.

What can NewsCodes be used for?

For the news industry – but also far beyond – it is a strict requirement being able to apply metadata to assert something about the content of a news item. This could be achieved either by free-text human language (e.g. by a headline or a caption) or by codes, NewsCodes. Codes have the advantage that they can be easily shared among users and as each code requires an explicit and comprehensive definition not only the codes but also their semantics can be shared among users. Further NewsCodes are language agnostic, thus the code is the same for describing content in different languages, only the definition of the code should be translated to help with understanding its semantics.

Why are there so many different sets of NewsCodes?

We could have created one big vocabulary that tries to describe everything in the world, but such a vocabulary could not be managed in an efficient way. For that reason the IPTC decided to group concepts of the same type in a specific controlled vocabulary, such as subject, genre, content production role and video codec. Each vocabulary has a description of its scope.

I just want to tag my content with subjects, which NewsCodes vocabulary should I use?

Since 2010 we have recommended the IPTC MediaTopics vocabulary for subjects. Before then we recommended IPTC Subject Codes. If you have a data set tagged with the old Subject Codes, you can use our mappings to convert from Subject Codes to Media Topics terms.

We have created an easy-to-navigate tree view of Media Topics here.

Can NewsCodes be used free of charge?

Yes, they can. Any NewsCode provided by the IPTC can be used at any stage of a news workflow without any royalty fee. But if one includes IPTC NewsCodes into an application the intellectual property and the copyright of the IPTC must be explicitly included.

Specifically, all IPTC NewsCodes are licensed with the Creative Commons CC-BY 4.0 licence. This means that you can use them for free in any way, but we request that you give IPTC credit somewhere on your website.

How do we view and retrieve NewsCodes?

NewsCodes are available in different formats, find them all on the IPTC Controlled Vocabulary server View the Guidelines for details on how to access the CV server to obtain copies of IPTC NewsCodes in machine-readable formats, for example for upload into your asset management system.

If you want to browse the Media Topics subject vocabulary in an easy way, we recommend using the tree view of Media Topics.

Who uses IPTC NewsCodes?

IPTC’s NewsCodes vocabularies are used by the world’s largest news agencies, such as Agence France-Presse, Associated Press and Reuters, in their NewsML-G2 coverage.

The Media Topics vocabulary in particular is becoming more and more popular. It is used across Scandinavia by the Swedish news agency TT and the Norwegian news agency NTB to share content with their customers, and it is used as the basis for a content sharing system in Sweden.  Ritzau in Denmark and ABC Australia use it as the core for their vocabularies, extending it for their own needs.

And we hear about more users all the time! As IPTC NewsCodes is a free, open vocabulary set, anyone can use it without necessarily telling us about it. If you use IPTC NewsCodes in any way, we would love to hear about it – please contact us!

How can I classify my content using IPTC NewsCodes?

Many tools exist that automatically classify content according to IPTC Media Topics, from vendors such as iMatrics, Microsoft Azure Media Services, MeaningCloud, TextRazor and more. In addition, some manual or semi-automatic content classification and tagging tools natively support IPTC vocabularies or have them as supported add-ons, such as PoolParty and Progress Software’s Semaphore.

If you know of a product that classifies content using any IPTC vocabulary, please let us know and we can add it to the list.

Please note that some of these tools only classify content against the older IPTC Subject Code vocabulary. We recommend using the newer Media Topics vocabulary instead.

How can I use NewsCodes? How can I suggest a new topic? How often are new versions released?

For answers to these questions and much more, please read the IPTC NewsCodes Guidelines.