Impacts of data visualization on traditional journalism


During recent years, the Internet has been popular and social media has developed rapidly while traditional journalism has been challenged. Although traditional journalism is poorly developed, people are thirsting for information. ‘Big data age ’has brought a new opportunity to journalism.

1.Concept changes.

Data visualization makes the production sectors of news different from that of the traditional journalism which are the choice of sources, interview, writing and dissemination. Data visualization enables journalists to shift their focus from seeking hot issues to explain the inner logical relations of current affairs to the public. It shows audiences the complicated relations between data, society and individuals through visual means. Pictures and designs are often used as a supporting role in traditional reports, while this part is more focused in data visualization. Data visualization requires an objective and acceptable method to stimulate the public attention and participation, which is a new way of news coverage.


2.Requirements changes.

Data visualization report is a huge challenging for traditional journalists . Some changes can be seen from the composition of BBC.

Data news production team of BBC News Network is made up journalists, designers and developers. Although there is no special ‘data journalist’ in this team,each editorial member is required to use basic form tool for data analysis.

Obviously, the production of data news is no longer the traditional collection, processing and release mode, which cannot be completed by only one reporter. Data visualization projects require journalists to strengthen collaboration with designers and IT technicians as well as to master data analysis skills.

3. Traditional collection and dissemination of news materials are confronting challenges.

The traditional journalists tend to conduct interviews at the places where the event happened to acquire first-hand data. Besides, the interviewees are various. The news is often represented in the form of words.

Data visualization is a revolutionary challenge. During this period, if a journalist wants to do a good job, he should not only has professional knowledge and skills, but also to grasp technical expertise. What data journalists are facing is the government database or the massive information on the Internet, which requires journalists master data processing and analysis capacities. Therefore, data collection becomes an essential part.

After data analysis, data news can be released in different approaches such as information forms, comic products and data blog.



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



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.


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 the 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 the era of news methodology. It is not a 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. Also, lots of Chinese journalists do not have access to improve their skills, which causes low quality coverage as well as a lack of analytical ability of data information.


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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Analyzing 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.



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

The mutual effect between supply (hosts) and demand (guests) is an essential field of some peer-to-peer marketplaces like Airbnb. In other words, more hosts means more options for guests and more guests means more profit opportunities for hosts.


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The changing relationship between journalism and its audiences


The relationship between journalism and its audiences has always been complicated. On the one hand, journalism serves its audiences. It provides news which is needed and cared by people 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.

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 journalism

Nowadays, digital platforms have changed the way in which many of us produce, access, discuss and share news stories. Although Chinese authority impedes the spread of some western social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Instagram, Chinese social platforms which have the same functions as these blocked platforms are popular and influential.

Weibo and Wechat have the most users in China; they are just like the king and queen regarding their social influence and power. They also affect journalism because of the reliable news sources shared by their users.


Weibo is a Chinese micro-blogging website (also available as a mobile app), it is regarded as the combination of Twitter and Facebook. It has a 140-character limit of each post, which is like Twitter. It also provides users many options about sharing photos, music and videos, creating campaigns, which is like Facebook.


WeChat is a free mobile communication app. People can send text and voice message, conduct a voice or video call (one-to-one & one-to-many), share photos, videos as well as location. However, there is no clear equivalent in western market.


It is widely believed that China’s media is supervised by the government, however, some digital platforms such as Weibo and Wechat contribute to the escape of media from propaganda. They provide opportunities for citizens to reveal social evils such as official corruption and income inequalities. Therefore, many journalists can acquire news information through these platforms.

Many news agencies have registered their 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 history of 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.

China Academic Network (CANET) is the first computer network in China aiming at helping 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 Internet accounts from ChinaNET can be bought directly by individuals.


China’s Internet has developed rapidly with the commercialization of Internet services and the stimulation of the Golden Projects factor. In addition to the significant growth in the number of users, the functions of Internet has broadened. The 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 growth 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.


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 is keen on writing could write their stories online. Therefore, the online literature has become the eye-catcher landscape of literature.


The Internet in China has a short history, but it is developing rapidly over the past decade. 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



It can be seen that although newspapers still make profits, they are shrinking rapidly nowadays. On the contrary, digital news consumption has grown. The increasing development of the 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. This is strange because we only need to pay the full price of the good when we buy a notebook or a pen. 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. Majority of ads are swallowed by some huge web-based companies such as Google and Facebook,  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 (2017,p.96), 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.

Some people misunderstand that journalism sells readers to advertisers. This will not be true and a new model of journalism would be promoted.


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