Author: Nikolai Pavlov, PMP
A time when business intelligence (BI) was the sole domain of IT specialists and statisticians is long gone. Today, many different professionals across various industries use BI to gain advantage and improve their businesses.
At its core, BI serves two main functions. The first is to develop a more detailed understanding of available data by providing insights and discovering new trends. The second is to effectively communicate information to a wider audience to support business ideas.
The ability to tell a captivating story backed by insightful, accurate and verifiable data is the foundation of good journalism. Here, the second function of BI fits in perfectly. Not surprisingly, data-driven journalism got traction and became a new trend over the past several years.
We all know the saying a picture is worth a thousand words. Indeed, some of the most effective stories are visually compelling, insightful and personal.
In search of more effective ways of delivering information to the public, with the help of BI journalists are combining the art and science of data-driven storytelling. By sharing stories with visuals – such as heat maps, charts and density pins – journalists are catching the attention of their readers in a more engaging way. Visuals help to quickly grasp the essentials of data without having to process large amounts of text. During our information dissemination world and short memory span the simpler is the better.
BI tools can help take journalism (and storytelling, in general) to the next level. Realizing this, a leading global news agency, Association Press (AP), for example, collaborated with Microsoft to enhance its storytelling efforts with Power BI.
“At The Associated Press, we’ve always been forward-thinking about the role data plays in journalism… We’re making data journalism more accessible and efficient for our members and customers, ultimately helping us all better understand the world in which we live,” said Troy Thibodeaux, AP data journalism team editor, as cited by a Microsoft blog story.
Seeking trust with BI
Today, we live in the era of clickbait headlines, where drawing readers’ attention is often more important than providing a high-quality reporting. In pursuit of page clicks, ad money and political agenda, some news agencies have ran questionable and sometimes outright false reports. The term “fake news” became popular on the Internet.
Given that data is properly gathered and not manipulated, BI tools can make reports more transparent and create a greater level of objectivity. Embedded interactive visualizations in stories can help readers discover insights that are important to them. Essentially, BI allows readers to be their own story creators, helping to dive deep into the numbers and discover personal insights that will be most meaningful to them.
A great example of such a case is a captivating document created by The Pudding, a digital publication that specializes on data-driven stories. The Pudding focused on abortion, a very controversial topic in the United States, without making a subjective judgement. The interactive article showed the unequal access to abortion clinics in different parts of the United States. Using different maps and a slider, readers could see the exact number and location of urban areas with no access to an abortion clinic unless driven a certain number of hours. Anyone regardless of their political stance could find their own community on the map, move a mouse cursor to see how many hours it would take people to get to the nearest abortion clinic and form his or her own opinion about the issue. The objective of the article was not only to tell readers about the issue, but to engage people, making them part of the story.
By effectively using data-driven stories, journalists can change the nature of news reporting, bringing back public trust and engagement, the two important things journalism seems to have lost over the recent years.
BI-powered visualizations are no longer just a cool feature that can be embedded in online tech magazines, but soon to be a mainstream form of storytelling and already an essential tool for the journalists of tomorrow.
Disclaimer: the views and opinions of the author expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Centida.