Data Journalism Is Just What Your Content Needs

data journalismA data journalist? What exactly does that mean, and why is data journalism important to your brand?

Content is king – or at least that’s what they’ve been saying, right? While creating quality content has always been important and will continue to be so as we move forward in time, you absolutely must embrace the concept of data journalism to more easily engage your audience and create awareness of your brand.

This isn’t an entirely new concept in the scheme of things, but it certainly feels like a fresh approach to marketing when used appropriately. Data journalism is quickly becoming a greater part of the established marketing world – so ask yourself, “What is it and how can I use it?” First, let’s define it.

What Is Data Journalism?

Journalists tell stories. Data journalists do so by using numbers, figures, or images to unite concepts in the reader’s mind. For instance, Bloomberg released an article last year entitled, “The Most Dangerous Jobs in America,” an editorial work that graphically represented several dozen occupations and their respective risk ratings.

Instead of simply outlining a list of dangerous jobs, the journalists included a bar graph that visibly represented the specific dangers of each occupation and how each job compared to the next in terms of risk. The impact of this numbers-based visual representation is quite compelling and makes the reader think. This is data journalism.

Another stellar example of data journalism was released by the Wall Street Journal just a few years ago, It tells the story of the rapid decline in measles diagnoses among Americans in relation to the introduction of the measles vaccine. A state-by-state graph was created, which includes a solid black line delineating the year the vaccine was made widely available.

The results are stunning, and easily and concisely tell the story of how effective the measles vaccine proved to be. This was all without the reader having to glance at a word on paper. The Wall Street Journal has been hailed as a leader in the data journalism field.

How Do You Become an Effective Data Journalist?

Loving facts and figures is a start – especially considering that data journalism is a labor of love, a search for hidden figures and data, and a trying task that ultimately may not result in a usable data set, even after hours or days of research. It’s not easy, but here are some basic tips to maximize your efforts:

  1. Use available organizational tools: There are several free and pay-to-play tools available on the market today, including Timetric, Many Eyes, Google Fusion Tables, Google Charts, and more. These will help you to organize the data you do collect, which is one of the more challenging parts of the process.
  1. Function is mandatory, but form is everything: Even the most compelling of data sets will be invisible to a reader if the information is presented in a drab or uninteresting way. If you’re not overly creative when it comes to visual content, hire the right people to bring your data to life. Interesting shapes, colors and graphics can make all the difference in the world.
  1. The story has to stand on its own: Just because you’ve discovered a way to create an interesting graphic design that incorporates numbers, doesn’t mean readers will remain engaged. First, find the story you want to tell. Then, stay flexible and search for quantitative data that supports your story and can be molded into an interesting infographic or visual representation.
  1. Know where to look: The world has become “open source,” so all you need to do is learn where to look to find the information you want. The government publishes a litany of statistics across its myriad of websites. Yet, there is no central reporting agency to tie it all together. Private enterprises and non-profits also divulge stats on virtually anything. But you have to dig to find what you need. In the end, plan on spending lots of time mining for data – it’s what data journalists do.

To create compelling and shareable content that has the potential to spotlight your brand or organization, consider leveraging the fundamental strengths of data journalism. This creative approach to storytelling will keep your readers engaged in the information age.

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