Data And The Future Of Journalism

Excerpts from an article written by Paul Bradshaw for The International Press Institute’sBrave News Worlds.”

IPI Report: Brave News World“Over the last year an increasing number of news organizations have started to wake from their story-centric production lines and see the value of data.

“When I talk about data I mean information that can be processed by computers. This is a crucial distinction: it is one thing for a journalist to look at a balance sheet on paper; it is quite another to be able to dig through those figures on a spreadsheet, or write a programming script to analyze the data, and match it to other sources of information… Adding computer processing power to our journalistic arsenal allows us to do more, faster, more accurately and with others.

“Journalists should be familiar with the open data movement and the linked data movement. The open data movement campaigns for important information, the linked data movement campaigns for data to be made available in such a way that it can be linked to other sets of data.

“Data journalism takes in a huge range of disciplines, from Computer Assisted Reporting (CAR) and programming, to visualization and statistics. If you are a journalist with strength in one of those areas, you are currently exceptional. This cannot last for long: the industry will have to skill up, or it will have nothing left to sell.

“And then there is the commercial opportunity. Publishing is for most publishers, after all, not about selling content but about selling advertising. And here also data has taken on increasing importance. The mass market was a hack. As the saying goes: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

“But Google, Facebook and others have used the measurability of the web to reduce the margin of error, and publishers will have to follow suit. It makes sense to put data at the centre of that – while you allow users to drill into the data you have gathered around automotive safety, the offering to advertisers is likely to say “We can display different adverts based on what information the user is interested in”, or “We can point the user to their local dealership based on their location”.

“I have a hope that this will lead to a more collaborative form of journalism. The biggest resource a publisher has is its audience. Until now publishers have simply packaged up that resource for advertisers. But now that the audience is able to access the same information and tools as journalists, to interact with publishers and with each other, they are valuable in different ways.”

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