digital transformation in news production and consumption – WAU
Data Journalism is a digital news production modality that uses large databases to elaborate pieces of content focused on informational correlations, in addition to using graphic and interactive resources to make the viewing experience of the news consumer more pleasant. .
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“Journalism is dying.” “Newspapers of broad tradition and recognition are closing their doors in different parts of the world”. “Nobody reads news anymore.”
Phrases like these have been heard and said frequently recently and are partly right. In fact, it is no longer common to see people opening the pages of a newspaper on the bank of the square to learn the news of the country.
At the same time, streaming services and audiovisual platforms are gaining much of the usual television viewers.
But the authors of the previous sentences may be uninformed about the latest good news: The digital transformation reached journalism and is here to stay.
The main exponent of this movement is data journalism, which has been promoting important changes in the information production process and in its consumption by users on news sites.
Big Data and People Analytics resources and tools are being incorporated into newspapers’ newsrooms, allowing access to more valuable, reliable, complete information adapted to the dynamism of digital reading.
Next, we will present the main news in the data journalism scene inside and outside London and their impact on our way of seeing the world.
If you don’t want to be out of date on the topic, reading the content to the end is your best decision.
What is Data Journalism?
In essence, data journalism is a news production method oriented to the use of information and elements of numerical value, with the objective of producing correlations that allow us to reach precise and relevant conclusions on topics of interest to the public.
The disruptive character of this professional modality is shown in the break with the routine of the conventional journalist, formed by fieldwork on the streets based on the hand-drawn agenda, face-to-face or telephone interviews and the generation of news content at the end.
With data journalism, the logic is reversed. Instead of proposing a research topic and then going on to actively search for information, editors and reporters delve into the collections of collected data and identify gaps or connection points that are worth exploring further. Therefore, it is data analysis that initiates the news production process, taking on a much more significant role.
How did the concept of Data Journalism come about?
The English term “Data-driven Journalism” started to be used in 2009 to designate news production initiatives based on structured data in the United States, being adapted to different languages in the following years.
The development of a concept for the activity responded to the need to give shape and momentum to the new journalistic model, facilitating its dissemination by the professional community and guiding academic and independent studies on the subject.
Many communicators in the field have even included working with data in their professional profiles to be adapted to the demands of hiring vehicles and companies that are experiencing the transition to data-driven production.
When did journalism start working with data?
The question seems strange, doesn’t it? After all, journalism has always had as a pillar the veracity of the information transmitted in the reports of all formats.
In fact, the long history of journalism has seen initiatives and actions focused on statistical data, which supported the reader’s interpretation of the topic addressed.
The first known example comes from the American newspaper The New York´s Tribune, which, in 1849, published on the cover page a complete and visually friendly graphic about the cholera epidemic that hit the city that year.
Although medicine had not advanced enough to understand the causes of the disease, the newspaper article alerted the population to its lethal capacity and the need to mobilize efforts to prevent a massive number of deaths.
The graph showed the proportion of cholera deaths in relation to the total number of deaths in the city, showing a municipal problem of great public interest.
Another reference of printed newspapers that were ahead of their time in the use of data is The Philadelphia Inquirer, winner of 17 Pulitzer prizes between 1975 and 1990.
In the year of its first award, a reporter was hired dedicated to exhaustively analyzing the city census numbers, generating materials from them.
The emergence of the Internet, however, was the biggest driver of data journalism in the world, as it allowed the formation of immense information bases with easy access and interpretation.
Even so, a good part of the volume of data generated was not used intensively by journalists until the end of the 2000s, due to the difficulty of professionals in dealing with the complexity of statistical correlations.
The problem lessened with the emergence of digital tools that automated data structuring.
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Why can data help journalism?
Now understand what are the main advantages of associating data with journalism:
Are not susceptible to particular interests
The journalistic credibility of traditional media has been put in check with great force in recent years, mainly with the outbreak of false news on social networks.
Bearing in mind that quality information is the main raw material for journalistic research, it is essential that it comes from reliable sources and that it is not influenced by commercial or ideological interests. And who can be better than the numbers to guarantee an exempt origin for the facts?
The main premise of data journalism is to easily and cleanly present the numerical information related to the topic of the content, allowing the reader’s assessment to be based on statistics and not on personal assumptions or versions, which are often distorted by conventional interview sources .
Increase the quality of productions
Data analysis allows you to connect limited portions of information about complex and diverse problems and situations, favoring that the contents are more complete and offer a more complete and efficient assistance to the reader’s assessment.
In addition, the multiplicity of data display formats provides the user with a more complete and interactive experience, as he can browse the graphs and charts in the order of his preference.
The bubble map below, available on the Flowing Data website, shows very interesting data on the correlations between the professions of people who get married in the United States:
The main data visualization features currently used on news sites are:
- interactive graphs and tables;
- animated infographics;
- geographic heat maps;
- bubble panels;
- among others.
What resources and tools allow Data Journalism to be carried out?
At this point you may be asking yourself: but how are journalists working so well with numbers, even if they are human?
Although a reasonable analytical capacity is required to produce data-driven news, the answer to success lies in the series of digital tools and resources that media companies have been able to take advantage of to guide their initiatives.
Some examples are as follows:
The Big Data tools allow to structure the volume of large databases, allowing the realization of filters and common parameters that separate the information generated according to the journalist’s interest and the thematic category that he will explore in a story.
At the same time, dashboards designed in a responsive and pleasant way create the ideal conditions for a complete analysis of data and a better targeting of the existing connection points between the available information.
Lapidating existing data in structures assembled with technical tools improves the news production process and offers the user immersion in the final content, in which he is impacted with visual fluctuations on the page and elements in various formats (videos, images, GIF’s, infographics) .
The photo below is from a New York Times article that was divided into 7 parts, including a map, building a storytelling that involves the reader in the content.
The user is the protagonist of the digital world, which is clearly demonstrated by the existence of SEO strategies, which seek to position a website or blog well on Google. How does this concept apply to data journalism?
The semantic analysis tools compile keywords spread across the Internet, both those that represent the search for information on search engines and those that express comments on social networks or forums. Another big volume of data, right?
Assisted by semantic intelligence applications, journalists can decipher the user’s intention and the topics of greatest interest among fragments of the audience, combining keywords to generate content ideas.
Taking advantage of the principle of collaboration in the digital environment, journalists from different media and channels have used Github to find references for application development and data structuring.
The platform is used by programmers and developers to disseminate experiences and new creations, generating an open source software network that communication companies can use to create their own news applications, optimized for the user experience and responsive viewing. of data.
Among all types of programming language for projects available in the community, Python is the most suitable for journalists.
The language is very accessible and complete, providing the development of machine learning tools, news applications or the use of automatic data collection resources.
The holdings of official data and research such as the population census are absurdly large and interpreting them manually is not the most inviting activity for a journalist.
In order that all this information is not lost and unused, data engineering tools have been applied by reporters and producers to more efficiently filter and organize the volume of numbers and statistics produced by public agencies.
A successful case of this analysis was the work of the Argentine newspaper La Nación, which used Big Data to create a collaborative platform that allows to distinguish the spending of senators in the country and another to show the votes of deputies and senators in each law presented in the Congress.
Google products for data structuring
The role of organizing all the information in the world, Google’s motto, does not allow the company to be left out of the growth of data journalism.
Thus, several products and services of the giant are used to systematize numbers and information that will serve as a basis for the reports and materials produced, from the simplest and most known to others, more specific and sophisticated.
Below we list some of them:
Automatically editable and saveable worksheets in the cloud, for creating tables, graphs and shared access files.
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Public Information Explorer
Resource that allows the automatic extraction of information in public databases and the conversion of numbers into tables and graphs.
OpenSource software that offers resources for the treatment, filtering and processing of large volumes of unstructured data, favoring complex analyzes.
Which news sites are doing well with this data-driven perspective?
In addition to the examples we have shown so far, there are a number of news sites that have already accelerated their adaptation to data journalism, producing materials of great relevance and technical quality.
Let’s take the examples:
The American publication is one of the stars on the world stage of data journalism.
Founded in January 2017 with the purpose of spreading it, the site promotes a complete and dynamic user experience, delivering materials full of resources and data visualization graphics that make reading easier and more attractive.
In the description of the site, there is the statement that visual stories are the future of journalism and the information that the content is produced by 6 journalists / engineers, which makes clear the purpose of being examples of the movement they want to see happening.
To close with a flourish, the website editors provide complete tutorials of the resources and processes they use in their productions, so that young journalists and other interested parties can follow the path of data journalism.
The image below is from an article that has compiled the international news headlines of American newspapers over the past 118 years! Would it be possible to produce content like this without data engineering tools?
The state of Sao Paulo
Known as one of the most traditional newspapers in London and founded in 1875, Estadão was one of the first national media outlets to open its doors to the use of data in news production.
Within the portal there is a specific section of infographics, which the user can access and share on their social networks.
One of the best known projects of Estadão’s data journalism was the presidential debates of the 2018 elections, in which the newspaper used 4 cameras to film the candidates’ facial expressions during the event.
The result was an infographic that contained an analysis of the fluctuations in the faces of each presidential candidate.
The New York Times
The world’s best-known printed newspaper has managed to survive the digital transformation in style.
In addition to having a subscription-based business model, the company has invested a lot of time and energy in making long and very interactive stories.
In the report illustrated in the photo below, which presents the agents that cause various diseases within the human body, the user finds the possibility of fully accessing the augmented reality resources of the content by scanning the screen with a QR Code.
What is the impact of Data Journalism for the user?
In addition to the attractive visualization of statistics within the content, data journalism is a news production methodology that transforms society’s perception of the value of information.
After all, the traditional consumption of news on news, printed newspapers and radio programs has lost strength in recent years due to the way in which they are broadcast, which still remains attached to the scripts usually taught at most universities.
This is one of the reasons that explain the success of corporate blogs, which prioritize the delivery of relevant information in diverse formats and on pages optimized for the best user experience practices.
For the sake of digital readers, journalism is gradually awakening to digital transformation, providing the aesthetic and technical conditions necessary for people to be interested in what is being broadcast.
Data journalism puts the user first and is honest with delivering information.
What are the next steps in data journalism
Technological innovation tends to reach increasingly surprising proportions, which makes it difficult to predict what the next possibilities and tools for data journalism will be.
But some of them show signs of fitting perfectly with the perspective that moves this modality of news production.
The use of artificial intelligence in the collection of information and in an attempt to understand the intention of the user who searches for news is a feasible path, considering the current facility to develop algorithms that guide digital navigation.
On the other hand, new collaborative business models may emerge that allow data journalism to scale, since the Data Journalist’s area of activity is expanding and should also reach university training centers at a given time.
In any case, attention to disruptive technologies is the most suitable position for communication companies, which have at their disposal a large test field to offer their users the best information related to the best content consumption experience.
These are the scenes of the next chapters, or rather, of the next facts.
Did you like the content? Then we invite you to download the e-book we prepared on the 360º digital transformation, so that you can know the impact of this movement in other areas of the market and consumption.