Scraping data from the BBC with Python

There is an annoying tendency of the BBC News site to have numerous ancient stories in their ‘Popular’ sidebar. It was a good excuse to try out Python and collect a bit more information on when this occurs.

This Python script follows the following process:

  • Visit the BBC News homepage and scrape the ‘Most Popular’ sidebar.
  • Visit the URL of each story.
  • Collect the published date (from the meta data and front end)
  • Calculate the difference between present date / time and the published date.
  • Store the data as a CSV file.
  • Repeat the whole process every n minutes or seconds.

Beautiful Soup makes relatively light work of parsing what we want, along with PrettyTable, CSV, Regular Expressions and Requests.

Running this in IDLE shell looks like this:

and some of the ‘old’ results collected over a 3 hour period can be seen in this spreadsheet . Out of 46 news stories listed under popular stories during this period, 21 were over 67 days old!

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