Data Visualization Literacy

Supporting data visualization literacy is key to drive the development of data visualization as a tool to enhance the understanding of critical information by the public. As explained in this Financial Times article: “only 63 per cent of American adults can correctly interpret a scatter plot”. I guess the figure would be similar across other western countries, and even lower in the developing world. Expanding the available vocabulary to data journalists would allow for improved visualizations making sense of complex issues.

The Financial Times Visual Vocabulary

The article mentions the Graphic Continuum as a learning tool, which the Financial Times used as a basis to develop their own Visual Vocabulary. But these attempts fall short of the real objective, which should be educating the general public. The 37% of American adults who can’t understand what a scatterplot is showing won’t turn to these tools for help. Educational efforts should be part of the mission of data journalists to ensure their work is widely understood. This mission can only be achieved on a daily basis, developing our visualizations with the end user in mind. Not to dumb them down, but to provide tools to ensure they can be understood and navigated by anyone.

Data visualization literacy tool from the Financial Times

Online News Comsumption: Video Vs Text (and Text is Winning)

Contrary to what media consultants, gurus and the like may have been saying, text, not video, is still the preferred medium for online news comsumption in the 18-29 age bracket (the so-called “millennials”).

Online news comsumption survey by Pew Research Center

The findings come from the Pew Research Center, but also Reuters Institute published an online news comsumption report outlining similar findings:

Website users in particular remain resistant to online video news with only around 2.5% of average visit time spent on video pages in a range of 30 online news sites; 97.5% of time is still spent with text. Around 75% of respondents to a Reuters Institute survey of 26 countries said they only occasionally (or never) use video news online.

Why do people prefer text over video?

Well, no surprises here. According to respondents in an online news comsumption survey conducted by the Reuters Institute, the main reason (41% respondents) was that reading text was “quicker and more convenient”. But I think we could come up with a lot more reasons, easily:

  • Text is quotable and more easily shareable
  • Text is accesible to people with disabilities
  • Most videos don’t have subtitles. That forces me to turn up the volume / stop listening to music or whatever I was doing.
  • Video demands full attention, text is easily scannable and can be consumed at my own pace.
  • With text I can easily keep switching tabs to attend other matters, then come back and keep reading.
  • Most people avoid streaming video on their mobile phones due to low data plans
  • Most of the time, video doesn’t add any value to the information. See this one as an example.

What kind of videos would work in online news? To find out we should take a look at what works outside online news sites. According to the same RI report:

We find that the most successful off-site and social videos tend to be short (under one minute), are designed to work with no sound (with subtitles), focus on soft news, and have a strong emotional element.

Storytelling with data

Data journalism can be much more than an impressive, interactive visualization or an inmmersive longform piece. There’s also the option of letting the data and the visualizations lead the storytelling, allowing for a much deeper comprehension of the subject at hand, as it’s the case with this work from the Tampa Bay Times. There, visualizations lead the story to show us the case they are investigating and explain to us why it’s important, taking us through each step.

Visit the story to see for yourself.


Podcasts are the next frontier of the digital media revolution

During the last 20 years, almost every communication business, channel and practice has been dramatically subverted by the digital deluge. We live today in a world where Telcos are content providers, an online shop produces TV series, newspapers are no longer in paper, TV is increasingly more downloaded and streamed than broadcasted and radio… well, radio is mostly still there, just as it was 20 years ago. The only unscathed survivor of the digital media apocalypse that has dethroned kings and built new behemoths. At least until now.

Ira Glass - This American Life

Ira Glass – This American Life

For some reason, podcasting has never been much of a threat to traditional radio stations, despite the hype about ten years ago. Actually, if you think about it, there are a few reasons:
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Jornadas de Periodismo de Datos – Gabriela Rodríguez (La Nación) & Mar Cabra (ICIJ, Civio, OKFN…)

Gabriela Rodríguez (La Nación), speaking at the II Jornadas de Periodismo de Datos in Barcelona:

Successful media companies work with their communities

Data journalists share with hackers their passion about what they do.

There’s a lack of collaboration between journalists. They should take more risks. The more successful journalists would be those that reach out and collaborate with more people.

Mar Cabra (ICIJ, Civio, OKFN…), speaking at the II Jornadas de Periodismo de Datos in Barcelona:

Journalists and coders share a vision of the world based in their curiosity.

Jornadas de Periodismo de Datos – Nicola Hughes (The Times)

Nicola Hughes (The Times), speaking at the II Jornadas de Periodismo de Datos in Barcelona:

If you can write it, record it or film it it’s not from the web, you’re putting something else on the web

Data journalism is becoming too popular, in the sense that some people think that it’s enough to do some line charts, bar charts, just putting data out there, but they are not telling the story. There’s a need for storytelling.

The internet is transient, there’s no control over the tools you use, they can disappear. But knowing how to code solves that. And it also helps to document, backup, reproduce projects, and reuse tools in different projects.

The problem right now is not that information is scarce, it’s the opposite, organisations and institutions publish a ton of information, and because most journalists only look for press releases and copy to rewrite, interesting things become hidden in the deluge.

Advice to journalists: Take risks. Use your imagination. Think of yourself as a craftsman.

There’s no such thing as “I don’t know”, just “I haven’t googled it yet”.

Do one coding course, just one, and then start building things. You have to write a lot of bad poetry to start writing good poetry. it’s very much a craft.

#jpd14: data journalism event in Barcelona

This whole weekend the second edition of the Jornadas de Periodismo de Datos will take place in Barcelona, Madrid and Almería, starting today. I’ll be participating with a modest workshop on spreadsheets in Barcelona on Saturday, but the speaker roster is filled with pretty big names in the spanish and latin-american data journalism community. The sessions are streamed online, but if you happen to live in any of the hosting cities, it’s worth attending the sessions on site.

How to get rid of a newspaper editor

No han echado a Pedro J. porque los ministros no fuesen a sus entregas de premios. Eso era solo simbólico. Las presiones han sido mucho más sencillas: han consistido en cortar el grifo de la publicidad institucional. Según cálculos internos de Unidad Editorial, la guerra desatada por el escándalo Bárcenas –y especialmente por los SMS del presidente del Gobierno al extesorero del PP– le ha costado al grupo unos 14 millones de euros en publicidad institucional.

Todas las administraciones gobernadas por el PP, desde el Ministerio de Empleo hasta el Ayuntamiento de Sevilla, pasando por Castilla-La Mancha o la Comunidad de Madrid, han cortado el grifo de las subvenciones a El Mundo. Todo ese dinero público, que el PP reparte arbitrariamente y utiliza para domesticar a los medios de comunicación, ha pasado de El Mundo al ABC. Y de la misma manera que hace unos años Esperanza Aguirre se cargó a José Antonio Zarzalejos, hoy Mariano Rajoy ha desbancado a Pedro José.

via La extinción del PedroJotasaurius Rex.