Analyzing China’s data journalism through a piece of data news

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Nowadays, big data has been pervasive. Many industries have been involved in its shock wave, bringing the changes of industry trend and even operation guidelines. For journalism, the news is no longer simply an interview, a report. The practice of using quantitative data to aid in journalism is nothing new.

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One piece of data news ‘Big adjustment of railway operation plan’ caused a sensation on media platforms. The journalist predicted the future of China based on 320,000 railway data. This is different from traditional news which uses representative cases, occasionally with some small sample quantitative analysis, to write a story and tell a truth. Now the external environment has changed, people’s behavior and social changes are recorded in the form of big data. Accordingly, new technology generates new media forms.

Taking the data news of ‘Big adjustment of railway operation plan’ as an example, it starts to use big data other small samples, which is the birth of era of news methodology. It is not an subversive activity, on the contrary, it enriches and extends news perspective and value. With the analysis of 320,000 data, we can see regional economic and demographic changes that are reflected in the adjustment of railway operation plan. This is the angel that traditional news coverage cannot touch.

Of course, data journalism of China has limits. Due to the newly introduction of data journalism, many audiences are not familiar with this reporting mode. It maybe difficult for them to accept data journalism. In addition, lots of journalists in China don’t have access to update their skills, which leads to gaps in coverage as well as a lack of strongly analytical reporting being based on data and open information.

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It is the time that China’s data journalists should pursue new journalism in a way that has the potential to both their country and the world.

 

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Analysing network effects: a case study of Airbnb

About 83% of total market value which is created by the mainstream technology companies is driven by ‘network effects’. ‘Network effects’ means a product or a service will be more valuable as the increasing number of users. ‘Network effects’ has a greater power than we think. With the influence of network effect, business sales and marketing activities might be more efficient, but it may also facilitate more substantial barriers to competition among companies. There are many companies which have great network effects, such as Airbnb, Uber and Snapchat.

In the past 25 million bookings, Airbnb creates attractive accommodation options by providing an interesting approach to search and reserve houses which have local characteristics. Users can choose houses provided by 640,000 users in 34,000 cities. These rapidly expanding ‘social-sharing’ companies have a significant impact on the traditional hotel industry in the aspects of supply and demand.

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Traditional hotels tend to control resources in order to maintain high prices, while Airbnb encourages more and more new landlords and travelers to join it to increase the Internet and social value on the basis of users to establish network effects.

A unique aspect of some peer-to-peer marketplaces like Airbnb is overlap between supply (hosts) and demand (guests). In other words, guests also become hosts and hosts also become guests. This is because more hosts means more availability for guests and more guests means more business for hosts.

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The changing relationship between journalism and its audiences

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The relationship between journalism and its audiences has always been complicated. On the one hand, journalism serves its audiences. It provides news which are needed and cared by audiences to realize its function of providing information, education and entertainment. On the other hand,  audiences tend to be passive receptors of content. Although media coverage largely depends on audiences, journalists are those who decide what counts as news and what can be covered. The audience, in a sense, is oriented by journalism and plays a subordinate role. In the broadcast era, audiences were more limited. They had few opportunities to share their viewing experience and generate content.

Digital media, however, makes it possible for audiences to participate in the creating of news. Audiences can convey, share, discuss and even remix content of news happening around them through digital media such as Facebook and Google. Digital media creates digital audiences, which encourages audience participation. The participatory culture also facilitates the improvement of news: to be more truthful, timely and readable. This is because in many contexts, audiences tend to be the witnesses of an accident, who know the information more accurately. Thus, digital networked media continue and accelerate deep structural changes in the way public spheres are produced.

The journalist is no longer the sender and the audience is no longer the receiver. Audiences can also affect the selection, presentation, aggregation and distribution of information. ‘The shift away from the we write you read dogma of modern journalism’ (Loosen & Schmidt 2012, sec. 5, par. 4) shows the advancement of democracy and the re-connection between journalism and audiences.

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The influences of digital platforms on Chinese news

Nowadays, digital platforms have changed the way in which many of us produce, access, discuss and share news stories. Although some western social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are blocked in China, their Chinese equivalents are popular and influential.

Weibo and Wechat currently dominate Chinese social media landscape, they are just like the king and queen in terms of their social influence and power. They also affect journalism because of the reliable news sources shared by their users.

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Weibo is a Chinese micro-blogging website (also available as a mobile app), often seen as the combination of 70% Twitter and 30% Facebook. On the Twitter side, each post has a 140-character limit. On the Facebook side, users have many more options with regard to sharing music and videos, creating polls and campaigns, and they can personalize their profiles a lot more.

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WeChat is a free moblie communication app. It provides text messaging, hold-to-talk voice messaging, broadcast (one-to-many) messaging, sharing of photos and videos as well as location sharing. However, in the western market, we don’t see any clear counterpart for WeChat.

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It is widely believed that China’s media is supervised by government, however, some digital platforms such as Weibo and Wechat make it possible that the media function is changing from propaganda tools to multifunctional media gradually. They provide opportunities for citizens to reveal the dark side of society such as income inequalities, official corruption and some emergency accidents. Therefore, many journalists can acquire news information through these platforms.

Many news agencies have registered their own official accounts on Weibo and WeChat to post daily news for the large audiences. News, affected by digital platforms, has undergone great changes in reporting and releasing modes. These platforms make news to meet the user’s personal and individual needs.

 

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The Internet in China and its impacts on literature

The Internet is considered to be a young technology in China because it did not occur until several decades ago.

The first computer network in China was the China Academic Network (CANET) to help academic and research support in computer science, which was set up in 1987. After the establishment of the CANET, some Chinese networks were established. However, shared-direct international Internet connections were not available among these early networks until March 1993. Although more and more networks could be connected to the Internet directly in the following years, most of these networks operated basically for academic and research purposes. By the mid of 1995, this situation started to change that individuals were allowed to buy Internet accounts from ChinaNET directly.

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China’s Internet has developed rapidly with the commercialization of Internet services and the momentum of the Golden Projects factor. In addition to the significant increase in the number of users, the Internet usage has broadened. Internet has brought much convenient for users, for example, it provides opportunities to search for useful information, watch videos, chat online as well as shop online.

The development of Internet has changed literature significantly. The vigorous development of the online literature has a profound impact on the contemporary Chinese culture. It threats the traditional print literature. It challenges the long-standing position and authority of elite writers and cultural intellectuals.

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Although online literature emerged only two decades ago, it has been widely accepted nowadays. It provides a wider platform for readers to read novels. It also provides more opportunities for amateur writers. This means everyone who are keen on writing could write their own stories online. Therefore, the online literature has become the eye-catcher landscape of literature.

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The Internet in China has a short history, but it is developing rapidly during the last 10 years. It brings a huge change in people’s daily life which affects Chinese culture significantly.

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Traditional model for funding journalism needs to be changed

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It can be seen that although newspapers still make profits, they are shrinking rapidly nowadays. On the contrary, digital news consumption has grown. The increasingly development of digital ecosystem of news outlets and the downward turns of economies are challenging the traditional news organisation model, which leads to the shift of consumer news patterns. Therefore, the traditional media industry is now facing existential crises.

Journalism’s survival is threatened due to its basic economic model: ad revenue. The model is strange because when you buy a book or a pen, you only need to pay full price of the good.  Whereas, when we buy newspapers, we have to pay for ads as well. What is more, journalism has its solemn civic duties and commitment to truth which influence the public, however ads on the papers manipulate citizens as well.

The Internet is widespread currently, almost everyone has been used to the new approach to acquire information which is free, convenient and diverse. Behemoths such as Google and Facebook have gradually swallowed most ads, which contributes to that online advertising spending surpasses that of the print advertising market. This makes that there is little money available to subsidize quality journalism. Consequently, things should be changed to save this serious situation.

According to Greenspon, the journalist who did a report titled The Shattered Mirror, it is inadvisable to advocate tax tricks to restore the golden age of ad revenues. Instead, levying a charge on ad-heavy Internet platforms like Facebook and Google should be implemented. The money would go into a fund which can be distributed to traditional media institutions and paid for more actual journalism.

A former Globe and Mail publisher defined journalism as a matter of selling readers to advertisers. This will not be true and a new model of journalism would be promoted.

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Female technology journalists should be more treasured

图片1Technology is developing rapidly and has brought the public a significant number of benefits, which attracts attention of more and more people. Thus, technology journalism has boomed during recent years. However, technology journalism still covers some drawbacks needing to be improved, among which gender differences is extremely outstanding.

It is widely acknowledged that the proportion of female and male reporters in technology industries is seriously unbalanced. The most important reason for this situation is that women are often seen being not as professional as men in this field. This is determined by the requirement of technology journalism that adequate technology experience and background are needed before doing a successful and influential report. However, most male are more interested in technology and have a better understanding of tech industries than female. Therefore, some female journalists who actually have good technology understanding are often ignored.

In reality, women are capable to make contribution to tech journalism as well and some even do better than men.

According to Christina Farr that technology reporting is evolving gradually that more and more female are now working as tech journalists. Even the driest and most traditionally male-dominated parts of technology journalism such as development and security have began to be reported by women.

The participation of female reporters is a good thing for technology journalism as well as the customers of tech news since these female journalists can bring a fresh perspective to technology reporting. As women have began to play an important role in technology industries, many female reporters want to profile and highlight some great women in technology industry with a unique and nuanced female perspective. They are more interested in covering those behind technology to represent the culture that drives the development of tech companies.

More talented female technology journalists should be treasured to achieve innovation in technology journalism.

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