4 Key Lessons Content Marketers Can Take From Data Journalists




There’s an oft-cited statistic on this planet of expertise professionals, from entrepreneurs to startup founders to information scientists: 90% of the world’s information has been created within the final two years.

This instantly-Tweetable snippet was referenced in Forbes in 2018, talked about by MediaPost in 2016, and lined on Science Daily in 2013. An off-the-cuff observer might be forgiven for asking: How might that be true in three totally different years?

At Fractl, the information makes excellent sense to us: The international quantity of digital data is rising exponentially over time.

From Seagate

This implies that the “90 percent of all data…” statistic was true in 2013, 2016, and 2018, and it’ll proceed to be true for the foreseeable future. As our tradition continues to change into extra internet-integrated and cellular, we proceed to supply large quantities of information 12 months over 12 months whereas additionally turning into extra snug with understanding massive portions of data.

This is vastly essential to anybody who creates content material on the internet: Stats about how a lot information we create are nice, however the tales buried in that information are what actually matter. In the opening manifesto for FiveThirtyEight, one of many first websites on the internet particularly dedicated to information journalism, Editor-in-Chief Nate Silver wrote:

“Almost everything from our sporting events to our love lives now leaves behind a data trail.” 

This kind of information has all the time been of curiosity to entrepreneurs doing client analysis, however the rise of information journalism exhibits us that there’s each client demand and nearly infinite potential for excellent storytelling rooted in numbers.

In this submit, I’ll spotlight 4 key insights from information science and journalism and the way content material entrepreneurs can leverage them to create actually newsworthy content material that stands out from the pack:

  • The numbers drive the narrative
  • Plotted factors are extra reliable than written phrases (particularly by manufacturers!)
  • Great information content material is each stunning and easy-to-interpret
  • Every firm has a (information) story to inform

 By the time you are completed, you will have gleaned a greater understanding of how information visualization, from easy charts to complicated interactive graphics, will help them inform a narrative and obtain extensive visibility for his or her purchasers.

The numbers drive the narrative

Try Googling “infographics are dead,” and your prime hit can be a 2015 assume piece asserting that the medium has been lifeless for years, adopted by many responses that the medium isn’t anyplace near “dead.” These extra optimistic articles are inclined to deal with the important thing facets of infographics which have remodeled since their recognition initially grew:

  • Data visualization (and the general public’s urge for food for it) is evolving, and
  • A nasty information viz in an oversaturated market received’t reduce it with overloaded customers.

For content material entrepreneurs, the appearance of infographics was a dream come true: Anyone with even fundamental expertise in Excel and a great graphic designer might whip up some charts, beautify them, and use them to share tales. But Infographics 1.zero shortly fizzled as a result of they didn’t ship something fascinating — they have been simply a unique solution to share the identical boring tales.

Data journalists do one thing very totally different. Take the groundbreaking work from Reuters on the Rohingya Muslim refugee camps in southern Bangladesh, which was awarded the Global Editors Network Award for Best Data Visualization in 2018. This piece begins with a narrative—an unlimited refugee disaster happening distant from the West—and makes use of interactive maps, stacked bar charts, and easy statistics visualizations to contextualize and amplify a heartbreaking narrative.

The Reuters piece isn’t solely efficient due to its revolutionary information viz strategies; relatively, the piece begins with a particularly newsworthy human story and makes use of numbers to verify it’s advised in probably the most emotionally resonant approach doable. Content entrepreneurs, who’re completely inundated with recommendation on how storytelling is crucial to their work, have to see information journalism as a solution to drive their narratives ahead, relatively than considering of information visualization merely as a solution to pique curiosity or improve credibility.

Plotted factors are extra reliable than written phrases

This is very true on the subject of manufacturers.

In the period of #FauxNews, content material entrepreneurs are struggling greater than ever to verify their content material is seen as exact, newsworthy, and reliable. The job of a content material marketer is to supply work for a model that may exit and fairly compete for visibility in opposition to nonprofits, assume tanks, universities, and mainstream media shops concurrently. While some manufacturers are fairly trusted by Americans, content material entrepreneurs could discover themselves working with lesser-known purchasers in search of to construct up each consciousness and belief by nice content material.

One of the perfect methods to do each is to observe the lead of information journalists by letting visible information content material convey your story for you.

“Numbers don’t lie” vs. model trustworthiness

In the buildup to the 2012 election, Nate Silver’s earlier iteration of FiveThirtyEight drew each large visitors to the New York Times and criticism from conventional political pundits, who argued that no “computer” might probably predict election outcomes higher than conventional journalists who had labored in politics for many years (an argument pretty much like the one confronted by the protagonists in Moneyball). In the top, Silver’s “computer” (really a complicated mannequin that FiveThirtyEight explains in nice depth and open-sources) predicted each state appropriately in 2012.

Silver and his workforce made the mannequin broadly accessible to point out off simply how non-partisan it actually was. It ingested an enormous quantity of historic election information, used possibilities and weights to determine which information was most essential, and spit out a prediction as to what the most definitely outcomes have been. By displaying the way it all labored, Silver and FiveThirtyEight went a good distance towards bettering the general public confidence in information—and, by extension, information journalism.

But the usage of information to extend trustworthiness is nothing new. A much less cynical take is solely that individuals are extra more likely to consider and endorse issues once they’re spelled out visually. We know, famously, that customers solely examine 20-28 % of the content material on the web page, and it’s additionally identified that together with pictures vastly will increase likes and retweets on Twitter.

So, within the period of countless sizzling takes and the “everyone’s-a-journalist-now” mentality, content material entrepreneurs trying to set up model authority, credibility, and belief can be taught an unlimited quantity from the confirmed success of information journalists — simply stick with the numbers.

Find the nexus of straightforward and exquisite

Our workforce at Fractl has a difficult process on our arms: We root our content material in information journalism with the final word objective of making nice tales that obtain extensive visibility. But totally different stakeholders on our workforce (to not point out our purchasers) typically wish to obtain these ends by barely totally different means.

Our creatives—those working with information—could wish to construct one thing enormously complicated that crams as a lot information as doable into the smallest area they’ll. Our media relations workforce—specialists in realizing the nuances of the press and what is going to or received’t enchantment to journalists—might want one thing that communicates information merely and superbly and could be summed up in a single or two sentences, just like the transcendent work of Mona Chalabi for the Guardian. A shopper, too, will typically have particular expectations for the way a bit ought to look and what must be included, and these elements have to be thought-about as effectively.

Striking the stability

With so some ways to current any given set of numbers, we at Fractl have discovered success by making information visualizations as complicated as they have to be whereas all the time aiming for the nexus of straightforward and exquisite. In different phrases: Take uncooked numbers that can be fascinating to individuals, consider a targeted solution to clearly visualize them, after which create designs that match the general sentiment of the piece.

On a marketing campaign for Porch.com, we requested 1,000 Americans a number of questions on meals, specializing in issues that have been mild and humorous dialog starters. For instance, “Is a hot dog a sandwich?” and “What do you put on a hot dog?” As a local Chicagoan who believes there is just one solution to make a sizzling canine, that is precisely the kind of debate that may make me take discover and share the content material with mates on social media.

In response to these two questions, we received numbers that regarded like this:

Using Tableau Public, an open-source information reporting answer that is without doubt one of the go-to instruments for fast constructing at Fractl, the tables above have been remodeled into tough cuts of a remaining visualization:

With the constructing blocks in place, we then gave in depth notes to our design workforce on the best way to make one thing that’s simply as easy however a lot, far more engaging. Given the enjoyable nature of this marketing campaign, a extra lighthearted design made sense, and our graphics workforce delivered. The complete marketing campaign is value testing for the challenge supervisor’s revolutionary and professional means to make use of easy numbers in a approach that’s stunning, easy-to-approach, and immediately compelling.

All three of the visualizations above are reporting the very same information, however solely one in every of them is immediately shareable and retains a story in thoughts: by creatively displaying the meals gadgets themselves, our workforce turned the easy desk of percentages within the first determine right into a visualization that might be shared on social media or utilized by a journalist masking the story.

In different circumstances, resembling if the subject is extra severe, easy visualizations can be utilized to devastating impact. In work for a model within the habit and restoration area, we did an in depth evaluation of open information hosted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The dramatic enhance in drug overdose deaths within the United States is an emotional story fraught with highly effective statistics. In creating a bit on the rise in mortality charge, we wished to verify we preserved the gravity of the subject and allowed the numbers to talk for themselves:

A key a part of this visualization was including one further layer of complexity—age brackets—to inform a extra contextualized and human story. Rather than merely presenting a single statistic, our workforce selected to focus on the truth that the rise in overdose deaths is one thing affecting Americans throughout your entire lifespan, and the impact of plotting six totally different traces on a single chart makes the visible level that habit is getting worse for all Americans.

Every model’s information has a narrative to inform

Spotify has greater than 200 million international customers, almost half of whom pay a month-to-month payment to make use of the service (the opposite half generate income by listening to intermittent adverts). As a corporation, Spotify has information on how a sizeable portion of the world listens to its music and the precise traits of that music.

Data like that is what makes Spotify such a worthwhile model from a and cents standpoint, however a workforce of information journalists at The New York Times additionally noticed an unimaginable story about how American music style has modified within the final 30 years buried in Spotify’s information. The ensuing piece, Why Songs of Summer Sound the Same, is a landmark work of data-driven, interactive journalism, and one that ought to set a content material marketer’s head spinning with concepts.

Of course, corporations will all the time be protecting of their information, whether or not it’s Netflix famously not releasing its scores, Apple deciding to cease its reporting of unit gross sales, or Stanford University halting its reporting of admissions information. Add to the equation a public that’s more and more cautious of information privateness and susceptibility to main information breaches, and purchasers are sometimes justifiably nervous to share information for the aim of content material manufacturing.

Deciding when to share

That stated, a agency’s information typically is central to its story, and when correctly anonymized and cleared of non-public figuring out data, or PII, the newsworthiness of a model reporting insights from its personal inside numbers could be large. 

For instance, GoodRx, a platform that studies pricing information from greater than 70,000 U.S. pharmacies, launched a white paper and weblog submit that in contrast its inside information on prescription fills with US Census information on revenue and poverty. While census information is free, solely GoodRx had the actual dataset on pharmacy fills—it’s their very own proprietary information set. Data like that is clearly key to their total valuation, however the way in which by which it was reported right here advised a deeply fascinating story about revenue and entry to remedy with out freely giving something that might probably price the agency. The report was picked up by the New York Times, undoubtedly boosting GoodRx’s scores for natural search.

The Times’ items on Spotify and GoodRx each spotlight the fourth key perception on the efficient use of information as content material entrepreneurs: Every model’s information has a narrative to inform. These items might solely have come from their precise sources as a result of solely that they had entry to the information, making the actual findings singular and distinctive to that particular model and presenting a key aggressive benefit within the content material panorama. While working with inside information comes with its personal potential pitfalls and challenges, in search of to collaborate with a shopper to pick significant inside information and directing its subsequent use for content material and narrative must be on the forefront of a content material marketer’s thoughts.

Blurring traces and breaking boundaries

An enchanting piece just lately on Recode sought to barely reframe the high-publicity challenges dealing with journalists, stating:

“The plight of journalists might not be that bad if you’re willing to consider a broader view of ‘journalism.’” 

The piece detailed that whereas job postings for journalists are off greater than 10 % since 2004, jobs broadly associated to “content” have almost quadrupled over the identical time interval. Creatives will all the time flock to the choices that permit them to make what they love, and with natural search largely seen as a meritocracy of content material, the alternatives for manufacturers and content material entrepreneurs to make the most of the information journalism toolkit have by no means been larger.

What’s extra, a lot of the perfect information journalism on the market sometimes solely makes use of a handful of visualizations to get its level throughout. It was additionally reported just lately that the median quantity of information sources for items created by the New York Times and The Washington Post was two. It too is value noting that greater than 60 % of information journalism tales in each the Times and Post throughout a latest time interval (January-June, 2017) relied solely on authorities information.

Ultimately, the convenience of operating massive surveys through a platform like Prolific Research, Qualtrics, or Amazon Mechanical Turk, coupled with the ever-increasing variety of free and open information units supplied by each the US Government or websites like Kaggle or information.world implies that there isn’t any scarcity of numbers on the market for content material entrepreneurs to dig into and use to drive storytelling. The trick is in utilizing the precise mix of arduous information and extra ethereal emotional enchantment to create a story that’s actually compelling.

Wrapping up

As manufacturers more and more put money into content material as a way to propel natural search and educate the general public, content material entrepreneurs ought to significantly think about placing these key components of information journalism into observe. In a world of countless spin and the growing significance of displaying your work, it’s greatest to recollect the well-known quote written by longtime Guardian editor C.P. Scott in 1921: “Comment is free, but facts are sacred.”

What do you assume? How do you and your workforce leverage information journalism in your content material advertising and marketing efforts?



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