One of the first known records of “data journalism” dates back to 1821, when The Guardian’s debut issue included a table to help explain the discrepancies between different cities regarding the availability of a free public education. The Guardian recently re-released the article on its DataBlog, adding “In today’s world of Ofsted reports and education department school rankings, this list would not seem unusual… In 1821, it caused a sensation.” While journalism once primarily consisted of narrative storytelling, as information became more readily available publishers began to realize the power of supporting that narrative with data. To an extent, today’s readers have even come to expect some sort of supporting data analysis when reading online.
Humans are visual beings, and what was once radical has become common practice… it’s easier to hammer home a point with visualized data supporting the story. I could tell you that the term “data journalism” has had a significant rise in popularity over the past 5 years, but you’re really going to “get it,” if I include this slick chart from Google Trends as well…
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so how about an interactive picture with live updating data? At least two thousand.
The 21st century has seen a meteoric rise of open, available data—government sites, API platforms like Quandl and Socrata—the list goes on. But just because something is “open” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s accessible, and who has time to create an engaging supportive visual when a Getty image is just a few clicks away? Newsrooms have been tasked with cutting costs and getting more done with less—anyone that’s opened a CSV file after filing a FOIA request, or taken a look at the GovTrack API knows that just because the data exists doesn’t mean you’re easily getting it into your story.
This past year we’ve been working to remove the friction (and cost) from adding beautiful, meaningful data visualizations to stories. We’ve curated and structured data on over 1,000 topics, creating a library of over 100 million interactive, live-updating visuals that come from reliable public-government sources. Each month hundreds of reporters use FindTheBest’s visuals to help tell stories in sports, economy, tech, finance, and more.
Looking ahead, 2015 is all about coverage and accessibility for FindTheBest. We’re adding hundreds of new datasets to our platform, ranging from public health and economic indicators to deeper firmographic information on highly covered companies, namely private tech firms and startups. Moreover, we’re creating new tools to help surface the best custom visuals for each unique story, making it so writers and editors have instant access to the best visuals available, and aren’t wasting time re-building the wheel.
There’s a lot to be done, and from the looks of it, this is just the tip of iceberg—we’re looking forward to helping the next phase of journalism leverage data without breaking the bank, and creating the first truly universal library of interactive data visuals.
Interested in tagging along? Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org with ideas, requests, and revolutionary ideas.