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.

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.

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.

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.