Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
As government records move from paper to email to channels like Slack, how should FOIA keep up?
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
May 20, 2013, noon

What kind of response do we want readers to have? When you build an informative and elegant visualization, how are you hoping they’ll react?

These are questions that Amanda Cox of The New York Times’ graphics desk asks herself on a regular basis. In a recent analysis of their popularity on social media, Cox tried to locate what makes a graphic popular.

1. “development.really.hard”
2. “big.breaking.news.big.breaking.news.adjacent”
3. “useful”
4. “explicitly.emotional…atmospheric”
5. “surprise.reveal”
6. “comprehensive”

Unsurprisingly “difficult” topics — mostly related to war, violence, climate change, and other highly complex issues — performed least well, but “takeaway” pieces with an obvious message also performed poorly as a class. In contrast, visualizations that requires extensive technical resources tended to perform particularly well, as did features Cox classed as emotional and useful — and, of course, those closely tied to breaking news.

In the wrap-up of her analysis, Cox considered the problem of indicating importance to the paper’s readership across platforms: “How do you signal that something is important? You do that by using the resource that is scarce.” In print, the Times can use scarcity to indicate importance by giving an important graphic a desirable spot on a “good page.” On the web, the equivalent scarce resource isn’t placement, but the allocation of valuable internal tech/development hours.

Show tags Show comments / Leave a comment
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
As government records move from paper to email to channels like Slack, how should FOIA keep up?
“I have a love-hate relationship with FOIA.”
Om mani padme hum: The New York Times wants to help you meditate (and run and lose weight and just feel good)
With increasingly product-driven thinking, the Times’ Well is breaking out of the news cycle — through VR, evergreen newsletters, and how-to guides — in an attempt to connect more deeply with readers.
For many legacy news organizations in Europe, digital disruption comes with new ideas but few answers
A new Reuters Institute report reaffirms familiar trendlines in digital publishing: “People are using mobile more and more, but we are not yet getting the revenue out of it that we would like to get.”