Future Trend of Data Visualisation

During a video report on data visualisation, Geoff McGhee gives a brief description of the current trend of journalism, “Journalists are coping with the rising information flood by borrowing data visualisation techniques from computer scientists, researchers and artists.”

Many businesses utilise data visualisation as a method to analyse, evaluate, and communicate information in the Web 1.0. When digital journalism started to emerge, Infographics began to become popular in journalism: news media use techniques such as infographics and data visualisation to convey complex stories.

Examples such as The Guardian and The Sydney Morning Herald, which utilise data visualisation to interact with audiences, support news articles and attract interest from the general public through the readable and interactive news.


In the article by Marisa Krystian, she gives a brief of the future trend of data visualisation, “The data visualisation landscape is constantly in flux, shifting under the pressure of new technologies, big data, and political climates.” And she also mentioned a few significant trends of data visualisation.

Firstly, more ‘snackable’ visualisation contents are now started to appears on social media such as Facebook and Instagram. One example is Mona Chalabi, a data editor at Guardian US. She tried to use Instagram to “hook someone into learning more”. And journalism should use these digital platforms to adapt themselves to fit in the trend.

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Secondly, big data will become more approachable. As there are more and more organisations collecting and analysing data sets, there will be more tools and databases ready for journalists and the public to use.

Thirdly and most importantly, data visualisation will significantly improve the transparency and credibility of news reports. The communication between journalists and audiences will be more authentic and effective as they can now understand each other more due to the transparency in data sources. And the use of data will push for the accuracy and truth in journalism.

The goal of data visualisation is to move people to see things they haven’t seen before. Charts and text alone don’t do it but marrying the two together is crucial. 



How data journalism is different from the traditional journalism that what we’re used to

Nowadays in the digital era, journalism is no longer about a simple interview, a report, or a witness. The practice of using numerical data to assist in journalism is nothing new, and this is known to the public as ‘data journalism’. Professional Alex Howard gives a detailed definition of data journalism in his Tow Center paper: “gathering, cleaning, organising, analysing, visualising and publishing data to support the creation of acts of journalism.”

Gathering data from websites/downloading a spreadsheet; Analysing and doing calculations on the gathered data to look for stories or clues; Publishing stories created by data in an interactive and readable way.

All of the above features might not ‘fit a strict definition of reporting while they all contribute significantly in journalism,’ said Sarah Cohen, the leader of a data team at The New York Times.


One famous example is the “Murder Mysteries” project by Tom Hargrove of the Scripps Howard News Service. Tom sourced from the government data and public records ( demographically-detailed database) for over 185,000 unsolved murders. And then he used an algorithm to find out the hidden patterns of the possible presence of serial killers. In this project, the power and role of data are obvious: gathering sources from databases, analysing data by social science techniques, and readable and interactive presentation of the data.

Data enable journalism to achieve a lot of things that are difficult or even impossible in traditional journalism.

To journalists, they can now easily find a news story by finding ‘suss out patterns and follow up on leads’ from a global database. Besides, they can use the computer and intelligent software to assist their analysis and calculation.

To the audience, the real data and facts make the ‘stories’ much reliable. In the digital era where fake news is rampant in news media and social, this feature is rare and valuable. Another new opportunity is transparency. As reporters can now publish not only the raw data but the related analysis and calculations they’d done to reach their opinion, readers can now participate in analysing and form their own conclusion.

Jeremy Singer-Vine, the data editor from BuzzFeed, said, “Data is another skill that helps reporters tell stories.


Is Network Effects really that magical?

Network effect is powerful to businesses as there is a ‘rich-becomes-richer’ dynamic between scale and value in businesses. Bigger scale leads to greater value for users, which in turn attracts more users. Therefore, once network effects are set in, business start to boost and become highly defensible. Companies include Microsoft, Alibaba and eBay, which are over 15 years old but still dominating their sectors thanks to the network effect.

Microsoft Windows is a very typical case. As Windows own the first mover advantage, many software is developed for them, which makes more people buy Windows computer, which in turn makes more developers build apps for Windows. This virtuous circle makes Windows valuable and undefeatable.

However, some people have a different opinion and doubt the ‘magical’ power of network effect. “One way that network effects can be defeated is through what we’ll call verticalization,” said Business Insider Australia.

One example is Twitter. Twitter takes the “status update” feature on Facebook and turns it into its own service, with its own identity and use case. The other popular feature of Facebook is sharing photos, and Instagram is the one tackled the opportunity. With cameras and the Internet function in our phones, it’s possible to make an app for picture sharing that are more tailored to the majority of Facebook picture sharing use cases.


Even Facebook itself won the battle with MySpace through the loophole of network effects: lateral competition, where the entry barriers of network effects are weak. If Facebook had focused on bands, they would have failed because MySpace had locked up with strong network effects. While Facebook targeted a population (college students) that was less into MySpace, attacking laterally and won.

What’s more, the two most famous online companies: Google and Amazon, benefit from economies of scale rather than network effects.

The more people use Google search, it gets better as it gives Google more data to refine the algorithm. Amazon’s scale allows them to get better prices from suppliers, which allows them to pass on savings to customers to make themselves bigger and better. These are not about network externalities but scale externalities.

Former Facebook president Sean Parker have said: “Companies that harness the power of networks will dominate the future of the internet.” It may be true, but it may be not.



The development of digital audiences & Challenges it brings to news media

In the broadcast era, audiences receive and access information from traditional news media such as newspaper and television. Because of the technological limitations, there was limited interaction between journalism and audiences. Traditional audiences were merely passive receptors of content while journalists can decide and control the media coverage.

Digital media, however, has changed such kind of relationship and encourage “participatory culture”. With various news and media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, WeChat and WeiBo, audiences are able to discuss and comment on particular news or content post by news media. Additionally, audiences can now share their experiences and ideas and generate content. Some even become famous critics and bloggers. Audiences can also affect politics and policy establish. One famous example is the new United States President Donald Trump, who broke the conventional rule and won the election with the power of digital media.

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The relationship between audiences and journalists has completely shifted from “we write and you read” to “journalism democracy and reconnection” (Deuze 2003, p.203). The change of audiences’ needs come along with the change of their abilities. Audiences are not satisfied with the traditional information distribution such as daily newspaper. Instead, they now expect faster news delivery and richer content. Besides, with various information sources to choose from, audiences have great power to choose and consume their preferred content.

infographic-journalists-and-social-media-study-results.pngThis situation brings great challenges to news media as they now need to listen to their audiences and analyse their preferences to decide what to delivery to the public. And as the traditional news delivery is shrinking, funding from the traditional advertisement is shrinking as well. To compete with the peer for audiences’ attention and advertisement opportunities, news media is now undergoing unprecedented pressure. News media and digital journalists are trying hard to bring interesting and timely news to audiences and ready to respond or reply to unpredictable comments or emergency event.

Overall, in the age of digital media, audiences have much more power and ability than before, reshaping the relationship between them and news media. However, this new form of relationship and situation brings great challenges to news media.


Deuze, M 2003, ‘‘The Web and Its Journalisms: considering the consequences of different types of news media online’’, New Media & Society, vol. 5, no. 2, pp.203-30.



Social media, the new news delivery platforms

Digital platforms have changed the way in which many of us access, consume, discuss, share and produce news stories. And mass media also rapidly adapted themselves to the innovative way for content delivery.
In most modern countries worldwide, many audiences no longer access news on physical news media such as newspaper and magazine. Many news media have their own website where people access news in their daily lives. Such as Newsvine, a news commentary platform hosted by the NBC in the US, and people often join or raise debates on heated topic there. The examples in Australia are Sydney Morning Herald and Financial Times, where the audience can get news push-delivery from their websites and Apps.
On social media such as Facebook, Twitter and WeChat, many news media also have their own account, where they push news even quicker and more frequent than website or bbs. People can access instant news or event happening around the world through social media platform, and they can easily share the information with friends by forwarding, reposting the news or posting comment on their own account. People can even create news as parties or witnesses.


This new form of participatory journalism has established a new type of relationship between media industries and audiences, in which the interaction is more direct and active. Media can now figure out audiences’ preference easily by analysing the “likes” and comments on the news they post online.
To attract audiences and compete with others, some journalists and mainstream media post news with a hot title with no value or even “made up” news to catch the audiences’ eyes. According to Sydney Morning Herald’s research, there are only 20% of journalists will check the news before publishing on social media. The reason is that some editors rush to be the first to report a “news”, which result in their easily making a misinterpretation out of context without an in-depth investigation. In China, a mainstream media called WangYi News is criticised and blamed by audiences for posting news that does not exist or only partially true.

More and more people access news online especially from social media, while a large amount of them cannot efficiently distinguish misinformation. Therefore, government’ rules and regulations to improve the reliability of news online and on social media are necessary.

News media should also take their responsibilities to help to create an environment where audiences can access valuable and reliable information and news. And audiences, as the driving force of the spread of news and information, should also learn to spot and distinguish fake news.



Journalism in the Digital Age

Traditional news media has experienced major changes from physical newspaper to multiplatform since the wide use of the Internet in the mid-1990s.

In the days before the world wide web, journalists need to witness a story, write up a news story, go to the business centre, print it out or report through television and radio. News editors and the governments play an major role as the gatekeepers to information. The audiences get whatever news and information newspaper and tv report.

Since the Web1.0 era, the way of how people consume information and news started to change – BBS became popular. The forum was a new interactive platform for the public to communicate with strangers online. West Temple and Tencent are two example for popular BBS at that time.

After the reveoluntionary change in technology and Internet, information gatekeepers become less and less essential because costs of distribution is disappearing and the public are no longer only audiences, they become news editors and spreader.

With the emergence of Facebook in early 2000, the social network officially entered the Web2.0 era. People started to use blog, instant messages apps, social media platform and other multimedia means as a way for daily communication and information resources.

As people can now freely access to news and information through multiple platforms, traditional journalism is somehow ‘abandoned’. In the words of The Guardian, “feeds from social networking services such as Facebook and Twitter provide a snapshot of events happening around the world from the viewpoint of first-hand witnesses, and blogs and citizen news sources offer analytical perspectives from the ground faster than print or television can provide.”


“As with all major change processes, a game of opposites develops between control and freedom, order and chaos. The potential controllers aren’t only in government and parliaments throughout the world. Large companies also want to exercise control over the market,” said by the Sverige Adio.

While I think that the biggest power of control is in the hand of neither the government or large companies, it is in the hand of the public and technology. The revolution of technology change the way of how people access information and news, and it forces the news media to adapt themselves to attract audiences. The rise of independent blogger, the wide use of social media and the trend of online news spreading are challenges for news media. Instead of trying to control the audiences and the ‘news industry’, news media should focus on how to adjust themselves to fit the needs of the general public in this digital age.



How can traditional journalism survive with shrinking revenue from advertisement?

The advertising revenue of traditional journalism has significantly shrunk since the rise of digital media. The wide use of Internet and growing popularity of social media and digital journalism changed the pattern of how people access news and information. In the past, people need to pay for a newspaper to access news, while nowadays we can acquire free and diverse information from multiple online platforms such as Facebook, Google, blog and some online news sites.

The rapidly decreasing demands of physical newspaper reduce the incentives for businesses to pay for the print newspaper advertisement. Consequently, it is urgent for the traditional media outlets to restore the disappearing revenue.

Steven Waldman, a former senior adviser to the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, claims that there is a duty of Google, Facebook and Apple to ‘donate 1% of their corporate profits’ to support traditional journalism, which is ‘ruined by them’.

However, blames would not save the traditional journalism. Innovating the traditional journalism and changing the funding model would be a much useful solution. Some traditional media outlets and journalists react creatively to the digital revolution and gain great success. Some mainstream Chinese news media (Financial Network) started to use social media such as Weibo and Wechat to interact with their audiences. Through analysing the amount of comments and ‘like’ on each news they release, they can understand the social focus and popular trend that netizens are interested in. As the news media can attract more audiences by posting news that accurately caters to audiences’ likes, businesses start to reinvest in advertising on those news media.


Some individual journalists also found their way out. For example, an Australian fashion blogger Margaret Zhang established an online fashion website and attracted lots of sponsors.


To find a suitable funding model and survive in this reform of media, traditional journalism should react actively and adapt themselves to the new pattern of how people access information,