There must be something in the water …. twice this week I have received emails from online journalism students asking for my thoughts on data journalism – and more specifically, my data idols.
The first was an email from Germany – or student Katarina Bons to be precise – asking for information about any studies into data journalism in the UK and
who the key players were.
During the completion of my final MA Online Journalism project, during a desperate need to relieve tension, I pasted the text of my MA final dissertation into Wordle. Whilst I regrettably did not save the final image there were some surprising, and not so surprising results. Data, was of course – one of the most commonly used words (so much in fact that the A key on my laptop broke off and flew across the room).
Another word that cropped up, worryingly often, was McCandless.
Poster boy for the data generation, but not without his critics, David McCandless is definitely my data-crush – his simplistic yet visually stimulating work is a definite inspiration to me and – in times of creative drought – I have asked – “what would McCandless do?”. (to make the shortlist of an Information is Beautiful challenge was one of my personal highlights)
Then I received an email, a few days later, from BCU MA Online Journalism student Duarte Romero Varela asking for a recorded interview about data journalism.
Being an alumni of that particular course, and a self-confessed data geek, I was more than happy to hold forth.
- Q: who is my data viz hero? (A: see above)
- Q: what tools do I use? (A: Excel > Tableau > Illustrator)
- Q: what is more important, how clear a viz is, or how it looks? (A: both – a clear ugly chart is like a badly written article – who’d want to publish it?)
This question was of particular interest to me – the tide does appear to be turning against data viz / infographics at the moment, thanks to the tsunami of terrible examples finding their way into web content, newspapers and onto billboards, bus stops and the side of coffee cups. There are cases, and I am definitely guilty of this at times, of being seduced along a path of beauty, and forgetting about the practicalities and the journalism.
Here’s how I see it …
Journalism: what are you trying to convey? What is the story?
Clarity: it has to tell that story
Design: it has to look attractive for people to want to interact with it
It’s a shame that there are so bad examples out there, outweighing the good and giving the whole area a bad name.
There is a real need in some cases for highly complex information to be reworked into a visible format and it would be a shame if we threw the useful bar chart out with the overdesigned viz
I am currently exploring the various avenues for making money from online news as part of my MA Online Journalism.
Over a series of Posts I hope to explore the various methods of generating revenue from online content – looking at the various issues, and pitfalls along the way.
My idea is a website that offers short, exclusive video interviews with bands – often bands that would not get mainstream coverage elsewhere (e.g. radio and television) but have a small, but cult, following.
The Money Making Options
- Standard Banner Ads
- Ad-content (more on this in future posts)
First, then – the big talking point of the moment, Paywalls.
I would not even consider a paywall model, were I providing standard, general interest news that could be read anywhere. Why would people want to pay for my content, if they could read it for free on a rival site? The beauty of the internet is the sheer volume of material out there, and the means by which to get at it. Websites, RSS feeds, email, social networks – they are all serious competition now for the news outlet.
The Times is attempting to do exactly this with their paywall. Initial figures are not healthy (losing 2 thirds of their online readership). Of course, that means a third of their readers are happy to pay £2 a week for online news – and those figures may eventually work in their favour, who knows. This is The Times, however, they had more readers to play with in the first place. A small local paper that attempted a paywall would be looking at 33% of not-very-much – an impossible situation.
There have been more successful attempts at a Paywall, all of them offering something unique to the reader (the old ad-men phrase of the USP) be it useful information (in the example of the FT or Wall Street Journal), or “celeb-toriety” (right wing commentator RushLimbaugh in the USA). In fact, many of us already accept paywalls as a way of life – Sky TV subscriptions anyone? Again – offering something that you cannot get for free elsewhere.
The question really is not, WILL people pay for “exclusive” content, but how much?
- The content I am offering is exclusive video interviews with bands.
- These will be video interviews, which are quick to digest, interesting to watch and entertaining.
- The bands I am interviewing are small enough not to get mainstream media coverage (radio or TV) hence the content has a unique value
- The bands have a cult following within their field and there is a genuine interest in their activities
- Content will tend to gathered in batches (ie at festivals) so there is an opportunity to promote interest between similar bands
- This audience are not a business audience – they are music fans (teenagers, early 20’s) who consume their magazines, news etc online via social networks, websites and apps.
- They will be happy shopping online, and in theory, would be comfortable using Paypal to sign up to a site
- However, would they see the value of this content? And how much would they be willing to pay for it?
Maintaining the Exclusivity
I would go to great lengths to maintain the exclusivity of this content – attending small niche festivals where no other media is interviewing, locking the content as private on video website Viddler, and embedding it behind a subscription page on my own site.
The downside of this is that the content itself cannot be shared, passed on or promoted – only the link to the page – for which you would need to have paid to access.
Thomson Reuters debate: What Price the News??
Intrusion. Payment. Scandal. Access. Ethics. Rights. Appetite. Celebrity. Obligation. Politics. Duty. Freedom. Harassment. Competition. Privacy. Security. Power. Press.
In the last few years the way in which we consume news has changed but so too have the practices of news gathering – stories of plagiarism, cash for news and harassment charges have all questioned the accepted principles of good journalism.
Ray Snoddy – BBC Newswatch Presenter & Journalist
Anne McElvoy – Evening Standard Executive Editor
Joe Lelyveld – Pulitzer Prize Winner, Ex-NYT Journalist
Sean Maguire – Thomson Reuters Political & Gen. News