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#ijf13: Data journalism pointers and Excel starter tips

April 24th, 2013 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Data, Events
Image by Abron on Flickr. Some rights reserved

Image by Abron on Flickr. Some rights reserved

Data journalism is not a new phenomenon. Speaking at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Steve Doig from the Walter Cronkite school of journalism highlighted this by talking about the impact of the rise of the personal computer in the early 1980s and how this helped journalists track “patterns” in the data they were getting hold of.

Before this technology arrived, such reporting was “often based simply on anecdotes”, he said. Giving the example of covering “the problem of drunk driving”, journalists would have previously had to have referenced a “bad example of such an accident” before moving to discuss the “larger problem”, he explained.

The nice thing about data journalism is it lets you go beyond anecdotes to evidence.

His workshop ran through some of the key features of Excel to help journalists sort, filter, “transform” and “summarise” data.

Below is a summary of some of the key points he raised – the full tutorial is available online.

  • Sorting, filtering, transforming and summarising data with Excel

When it comes to the most common format of data, Doig said it “tends to be alphabetical”, which will not make it immediately clear to a journalist what the story, or stories, behind the data are.

So we want this to be “more journalistically interesting”, Doig said. As an example he demonstrated how journalists can sort numbers by highest or lowest.

When it comes to filtering data, he described some particularly large datasets as “forests”, and that journalists “only want to see the trees that we’re interested in”.

Using Excel journalists can hide data they are less interested in and effectively keep their work area tidy.

Journalists can also use Excel to “transform data using functions and formulas”. For example, he showed the delegates how to create new variables, such as working out a crime rate per 100,000 people when you already have statistics on population and crime. This then helps the journalist “make fair comparisons between places of different size”.

Finally, you can “collapse your data down by categories”. This can be achieved by using pivot tables, which enables the users to select certain variables and bring those together.

For example, if you wanted to look at the number of murders by region, but the data is also broken down into smaller geographic areas, you could build a pivot table, select the ‘region’ variable in ‘row labels’ and select the column stating the number of murders and put it in ‘values’. This would combine the number of murders per region.

  • Data stories are not only for economics or business journalism

Here is just a selection of the different types of data story subjects Doig highlighted:

- Budgets and taxes
- Crime patterns
- School test scores
- Auto accidents
- Demographic change
- Pet licences
- Air quality
- Sports statistics

  • A simple toolbox can get you far when you are starting out

Highlighting some of the key tools for working with datasets, Doig said Excel lets journalists do the majority of the work they would need to, supported by database software like Access, mapping tools like ArcMap, a text editor and social network analysis plug-ins such as NodeXL.

And when it comes to visualising the data he pointed to data journalism staple Google Fusion tables, as well as coding language such as Ruby, Django, perl, python.

  • Tap into industry resources

Doig recommended a number of outlets and online platforms offering industry expertise on data journalism:

- Data journalism handbook
- EJC
- NICAR
- Investigative reporters and editors
- SKUP
- Global Investigative Journalism Network

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#AOPsummit: How ZDNet approaches mobile reporting with a responsive design CMS

October 12th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Design and graphics, Events, Mobile

Business technology news website ZDNet not only has a responsive site which adapts to the size of the screen it is viewed on, but has a responsively designed CMS, which scales to fit the screen size with the aim of making it easy for journalists to file stories from a smartphone or tablet.

The responsive CMS, which was developed internally, was introduced in July, Laura Jenner, product manager for CBS Interactive UK, which publishes ZDNet, said at today’s AOP Digital Publishing Summit.

In the session, which focussed on user experience and responsive (or adaptive) design, Jenner argued the case for responsive design, saying it is is “much better for user interaction” than an ‘m.’ mobile site.

And ease of using the site to download a white paper, for example, is key.

Loyal users are key to building audience as they always have been.

There are also business benefits of adaptive design, Jenner said, explaining that both users and search engines prefer using a responsively-designed site.

“Adaptive design is Google’s recommended option,” Jenner added.

And mobile means “you also have access to readers at times you didn’t previously”, she explained. “In the past you would have to wait until 9am on a Monday until people returned to their desks.”

Responsive design may also reduce the need for native apps and therefore reduce overheads, she added.

Asked how to convince advertisers of the advantages, Jenner said:

We are not forcing users onto another platform, they are already there. And we are providing a much better environment for advertising campaigns.

Asked whether journalists need to adapt articles or headlines to fit mobile reading, Jenner said “we don’t tell [journalists] to write a headline that fits on mobile”, adding that she believes people don’t want a shorter version of the story on mobile but want the full article.

In discussing development costs, she explained that responsive design is probably no cheaper as a one-off cost than developing native apps, but that the option is “far easier to iterate” and develop over time.

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#AOPsummit: ‘Big launch’ in responsive design next week for BBC News

October 12th, 2012 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Events, Mobile

BBC News will see a “big launch” in its move to responsive web design next week when readers accessing the site on a mobile will be redirected to the responsive version of the site rather than the desktop version.

Chris Russell, head of product for BBC News online, talked through the shift to responsive design at today’s AOP Digital Publishing Summit.

Responsive sites automatically scale to fit the screen size they are viewed on and have been adopted by news outlets including Channel 4 News and ITN, plus smaller outlets including student-run site Redbrick.

The BBC News site has been in development for some time with “location and weather modules” recently introduced and video added within the past two weeks, Russell explained.

He illustrated the importance of making the news site a good user experience on a smartphone by explaining that around 10 to 20 per cent of BBC News traffic currently comes from mobile.

He added that BBC News “still wants to be in app stores” so does not see responsive design in replacing native apps entirely.

Asked whether headlines and other content needs to be written with mobile in mind, he explained that BBC News has been doing that for many years, altering headline lengths for Ceefax pages, for example.

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#PPAdigital: Paul Bradshaw’s five principles of data management

September 26th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Data, Events

At today’s PPA Digital Publishing Conference, Paul Bradshaw, publisher of the Online Journalism Blog, visiting professor at City University, London, and course leader for the MA in Online Journalism at Birmingham City University, talked about data both in terms of data journalism and data analytics.

He set out five principles of data management.

1. Data is only as good as the person asking questions

Bradshaw said that whether the data is from analytics and used for commercial purposes, or whether it’s editorial data and you are doing an investigation, “the key thing is to have questions to ask” of the data.

That should drive everything, rather than you being led by the data.

2. Data can save time and money

Bradshaw is frequently told that data journalism is resource-intensive or a publishing company does not feel it has resources “to do data stuff”.

But he argues that data saves time, does not have to cost money or rely on having a team of developers.

He explained that people he has trained find they learn computer techniques to do things that they previously did manually.

They might scrape websites very neatly into a spreadsheet, they may pull data from an analytics package into spreadsheet, they might visualise that dynamically – and that all saves time.

You might prepare for a big event by having spreadsheets set up or feeds set up or triggers.

3. Data is about people

There can be a danger of becoming “bogged down in the data”, Bradshaw warned. “But really stories are told about people and to people.”

He advises taking “a step back from that data” to find “the people that it is telling a story about”.

He said that in the case of data journalism, that is about finding case studies; in the case of analytics you can use the data to create profiles or pictures of the people who are using your site.

4. Good data is social, sticky and useful

“If data is going to be useful it needs to have a point, people need to be able to do something with it,” Bradshaw said.

People may share it socially, he explained. And it becomes “sticky” if it allows people to spend time exploring it.

5. You can be driven by the data or driven by the story

“Sometimes you are getting data passively and you are looking for stories in it, sometimes you are seeking out data because of the story or lead or question you have,” Bradshaw explained. And that comes back to his first point. “It’s really important to have questions” rather than to be “passively driven by the data”.

And Bradshaw demonstrated how his principles make “a lot more sense” when you replace the word ‘data’ with ‘journalism’.

  • Journalism is only as good as the person asking questions
  • Journalism can save time and money
  • Journalism is about people
  • Good journalism is social, sticky and useful
  • You can be driven in journalism by the source or driven by the story

Listen below to hear audio of Paul Bradshaw setting out his five principles of data management:

Paul Bradshaw leads data journalism courses for Journalism.co.uk. The next course is on 5 December. There are details at this link.

 

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#PPAdigital: Lean back, lean forward at The Economist

September 26th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Events, Mobile, Online Journalism

The Economist divides its digital products into those that involve two reading behaviours: “lean-back 2.0″, which is the print-like digital experience of tablets, and “lean-forward 2.0″, a website experience.

At today’s PPA Digital Publishing Conference, Neelay Patel, vice president, commercial strategy, The Economist, said the title therefore offers three product types: lean-back in print, lean-forward on the web, and lean-back in digital.

And the new platforms are expanding the reach of the 160-year-old title, Patel explained.

Our potential audience is now much broader with digital.

Lean back

“Lean-back 2.0″ is an “immersive, reflexive, browsable, ritualistic, finishable” experience, Patel explained.

Lean-back readers like long-form journalism. “42 per cent of tablet news readers regularly read in-depth articles,” Patel said, based on a study the title did with the Pew Research Center. “And another 40 per cent sometimes do this.”

The Economist has taken this research and used the information when thinking about its “lean-back 2.0″ strategy.

And digital solves distribution problems. Patel explained that with print it could take six days, until the Wednesday after being published on a Thursday, to get an edition to Latin America or Australia. “With digital it’s instant.”

Lean forward

“Lean-forward 2.0″ is about the web experience. The online readership is very social, with articles spread via social media. In response to a question from a conference delegate, Patel said that social is one factor that helps The Economist address a potential hurdle – that those unfamiliar with the content think it is all about economics.

The discoverability of the content on the web (or lean-forward 2.0) and the social elements helps market the content. By coming across articles online “you then find out that it’s about far more than economics”, Patel explained.

Spreading the word

So The Economist aims to introduce its content to audiences that “do not know our brand” and has to get the marketing message across to jump the hurdle of the name ‘The Economist’, Patel said.

One of its challenges is to get that and other marketing messages in the “tiny little squares” offered by banners, buttons and icons of digital, Patel added.

In closing he said:

We’ve been very successful in print – and now we are successful in digital. But we must continually challenge ourselves.

 

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#PPAdigital: 27% of Wired UK subscribers have downloaded iPad app

September 26th, 2012 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Events, Magazines, Mobile

Conde Nast has sold nearly 500,000 apps of Wired UK, GQ and Vanity Fair combined, Rupert Turnbull, publisher of Wired UK told today’s PPA Digital Publishing Conference.

At first numbers were modest but as tablets have grown in popularity, app sales have increased, he explained.

The publisher has sold 474,825 tablet editions of Wired UK, GQ and Vanity Fair. The number of downloads by print subscribers who read the app is not included in that figure. Turnbull said that 27 per cent of print subscribers have downloaded an iPad app edition, which is bundled into the print subscription.

Turnbull said he expected the magazine not to work on a smartphone, adding that he thought “there’s no way” they could publish a “full magazine on a three-inch screen”.

“But consumers are much more savvy than that,” he said. “They read it, but read it differently.”

Research shows most users of the Wired UK iPad read in linear form.

He also revealed some good news for advertising. When asked “are you more likely to skip past ads on the iPad edition?” 82 per cent of Wired app users disagreed.

He also said that 59 per cent of Wired UK’s app users agreed that ads with good interactive content are just as enjoyable as editorial.

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#PPAdigital: Emap parent company Top Right aims to recruit 100 graduates a year

September 26th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Events

The chief executive of business-to-business publisher and events business Top Right Group, which was created in March after Emap split into three separate, autonomous divisions, said today that the company is re-focussing on its core business and investing in staff.

The B2B publishing division retained the Emap name after the split, with the events division re-branded as i2i and the data business becoming 4C.

Duncan Painter, who joined from BSkyB almost a year ago, told today’s PPA Digital Publishing Conference that the company aims to recruit 100 graduates a year to bring in new talent. The firm is also re-investing in training.

“Emap was at its greatest when it had lots of small, focused businesses,” he said, explaining that the company is again focussing on its core business.

When asked about the possibility of Top Right buying other businesses, Painter said he is not ruling out acquisitions, but favours launches.

He said the company aims to launch “three times as many products next year as this year.”

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#mms12: Apple Newsstand advice from Future Publishing and Dennis Publishing

September 25th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Events, Magazines, Mobile

It is almost a year since the launch of Apple’s Newsstand. After success stories for Future Publishing, which reported 6 million downloads in the first six weeks, and talk of it “revolutionising” the publishing industry, the question Mike Goldsmith, editor-in-chief, digital editions at Future Publishing, now gets asked is “how do I get on the Apple carousel?”

After Future’s success in regularly being featured in the carousel, publishers are keen to find out from Goldsmith how they too get in the ‘featured app list. Goldsmith shared his advice with delegates of today’s Mobile Media Strategies conference.

Another conference case study came from The Week, Dennis Publishing’s title which launched in 1995 and had an average monthly circulation of more than 190,000 in the first six months of 2012, according to recent Audit Bureau of Circulation results.

The Week’s iPad app has also been positioned by Apple in the ‘featured’ slot, and Alex Watson, head of apps at Dennis Publishing, also talked through lessons from the title which he said is reporting that digital subscriptions are growing by 10 per cent per month.

Lessons from Future Publishing

Mike Goldsmith’s main piece of advice is to “publish a good product”.

“Make something amazing,” he said. “This is the factor that will get your magazine featured in Apple’s carousel”. He pointed out that the ‘featured apps’ slot is not the reserve of large brands and smaller publishers can take the slots.

He also advised publishers to “get your support sorted out before launch”, explaining that they could expect to receive thousands of emails from readers so to put systems in place to respond to the customers who will contact them.

He also urged publishers to “know your customers” and study the analytics. And “remember you are selling a product”, he said, and therefore work on the cover of your app.

Goldsmith also advocated “telling manufacturers about your app”. He advised building a relationship with Apple (and Amazon and Google).

Lesson from The Week

Building relationships is something Dennis Publishing did when designing and building The Week’s app, showing Apple the product and listening to feedback, Alex Watson explained.

Watson said that they decided not to opt for a PDF-type replica of the magazine.

The app is “native in terms of way the user gets it” from the App Store, Watson explained, and uses HTML5 technologies to help focus on the user experience.

The technology keeps the file size of the app down to just 15 to 20Mb, giving the user experience of a fast download speed.

The Week also built in another feature, as the publisher knew its readers would opt for iPad app bedtime reading, which was a “night-mode” option with the bright back lighting dulled.

For more from Watson listen to the following interview:

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#mms12: Lessons for consumer publishers from Immediate Media

September 25th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Events, Magazines, Mobile

At today’s Mobile Media Strategies conference, Rebekah Billingsley, mobile publisher, Immediate Media, explained how the publisher, which was formed in November 2011 after a merger of BBC Worldwide magazines, Origin Publishing and Magicalia, has become the “second largest publisher of digital magazines”, based on Immediate’s own tally, with more than 1.3 million downloads to date and 16 apps downloaded every second.

Immediate Media launched its first magazine app in 2010 when it released Focus, later following with Good Food, which is now the “highest rated magazine app in Newsstand”.

When Apple’s Newsstand launched in October 2011 “sales quadrupled overnight”, Billingsley said. The same month as Newsstand launched, Immediate Media launched its History Magazine to Kindle.

And the previous year it started releasing ‘bookazines’, single editions with a long shelf-life. Two years on and the publisher aims to launch three bookezines a month and “every month they are making more and more money”, Billingsley told delegates.

Today 48 per cent of Immediate’s revenue from Apple comes from outside the UK and monthly PDF revenues have grown 500 per cent since launch.

“Be prepared to be surprised,” Billingsley urged delegates.

She had thought consumers would only opt for “enhanced, fully interactive models”. But recent ABC figures show “four out of the top 10 sellers are PDF replicas”.

Billingsley was also surprised by the numbers reading magazines on their phones, with 10 per cent of magazines bought via Zinio read on phones.

“Launching our titles gave us access to data in lots of countries,” Billingsley said, explaining they are now planning the roadmap based on actual data.

Billingsley warned:

Don’t just assume on behalf of your consumers. It’s new to them as well.

One thing Immediate did in order to convince advertisers of the value of the new app products was to hire 20 iPads and send them to media planners and also equipped sales teams with the devices.

And Billingsley’s advice for consumer publishers considering apps?

As long as you are using cost-effective technology and testing you can try new things.

She also encouraged the repackaging of existing content.

Her final words of advice were to “watch your competitors, better still take them to lunch”.

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#mms12: Eight facts on mobile for publishers from Enders Analysis

September 25th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Events, Mobile
Image by liewcf on Flickr

Image by liewcf on Flickr. Creative commons licence. Some rights reserved

The Mobile Media Strategies conference is underway in London today where Benedict Evans from Enders Analysis delivered the keynote presentation. Here are eight facts from his talk.

1. Half of the UK population has a smartphone.

2. Android and iOS mobile device sales combined are on target to hit 1 billion by end of this year.

3. More than half of Facebook’s user base is using mobile.

4. iOS users by five apps per month, per device.

5. Fifteen per cent of UK adults say they have a tablet. It is not reducing PC sales but the home computer gets switched on less and less.

6. Between Apple and Amazon they have a product at “pretty much all price points”, meaning they can be bought in the supermarket “without the need for a family conversation” about whether to make the purchase.

7. Android has about one third of the global tablet market and 10 per cent of the UK tablet market. But that could change.

8. Twelve per cent of tablet magazine and newspaper readers in April didn’t read print version previously, 20 per cent now read magazines and newspapers less.

In summary, Evans said:

If you are going to invest in developing for three mobile platforms – make them iOS, Android and Facebook.

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