Big Data is Redefining News

Written by on March 3, 2014


big-data-is-redefining-news

If digital data were something physical, it would have massively altered the shape of our world, probably, with the new data mountains rising every hour. Whether you browse the web or flip the pages of print media, you are sure to stumble upon some big news about big data, all the while feeding the web with your digital footprint.

As much as 98 percent of data today is stored in digital form, and there probably are hardly any venues of business interest that have not been affected by the rising tides of digital data. Like everything else, corporate media has taken important steps to harness the power of big data.

According to MIT Technology Review, The New York Times hired Columbia University applied mathematician Chris Wiggins as a chief data scientist in February 2014. His job involves conducting predictive analytics of the paper’s online subscription.

However, The New York Times is not the only media outlet to tap on the data resource it has. The Guardian, Der Spiegel, BuzzFeed and Huffington Post etc. have been using data to analyze the traffic flow to their sites, to predict the popularity of the news contents, and to boost their subscription and advertisement sales.

However, like the resource-restrained companies in the business world, many of the small and mid-size media houses have not been able to make the best out of the data they can use both in designing news and in policy making.

Data Journalism

If data has brought big changes in the business world, it also has brought tremendous changes in the traditional news format. In other words, today, data is not just in the news stories. More than that, it has become a new way of telling news stories.

Traditionally, heavy-handed descriptive texts with marginal still images used to be the major content of the print media, demanding a lot of time and focused efforts from the readers to make a sense of the news reports, articles, and op-eds. Internet-based digital media, however, is rapidly shifting the focus from descriptive to illustrative reporting and presentation. As a result, data journalism has become the most innovative practice in the field of journalism.

Highlighting on the growing use of computer-assisted reporting and the role of data in it, journalist and professor Philip Meyer says,

When information was scarce, most of our efforts were devoted to hunting and gathering. Now that information is abundant, processing is more important. Like science, data journalism discloses its methods and presents its findings in a way that can be verified by replication.

Hence, data journalism explores and studies data to get the factual information. It reduces the news into crystallized hard data that can speak for itself without the need of descriptive elaboration.

Data Generation from the Digital Media

The fact that Newsweek, the second-largest weekly magazine in the U.S., could not sustain its print edition and decided to go in all-digital format in December 31, 2012 explains about the impact internet has made in traditional print media.

All the newspapers and magazines that are widely circulated around the world in print version—Yomiuri Shimbun (Japan), The Wall Street Journal (US), People’s Daily (China), for instance—have also gone online for retaining their wider readership and for recovering the loss caused by sharply declining advertisement revenue in print edition. According to Pew Research Center, print advertising revenue in mid 2013 dropped to just 45% of what it was in 2006, while online grew by 3.7% in 2012 and was about 15% of the total in 2013.

The new tecnologies of the digital era have helped the news publishers to instantly reach to the global audience and to interact with them at every moment through mobile apps and social media networks. It has made the collection, distribution, and consumption of news two way and collaborative. With the rise of social networks, now, it has been possible to see the popularity or ‘virality’ of a specific news in numbers, making the news-related data easily available.

Data Visualization Revolution

Most importantly, it is not just the way information is gathered; instead, it is the way it is reported has redefined news in digital era.

Today, information overload has become a hot topic. It is said that our world has become excessively obsessed about the news, digital connection, and information sharing. Journalists have now adopted data visualization techniques to make the news information both vivid, concise, appealing and informative. They now report more in metrics and statistics than in plain words. Infographics, charts, graphs, diagrams, maps, interactive maps, animations and even video clips and sound tracks are used for the visual representation of data.

Traditional news reporting did not have the advanced tools and technologies that are available today for gathering and crunching a massive amount of data. Journalists today need various sets of skills to meet the needs of data journalism, but they will always need somebody to depend on when the job demands technical expertise.

When it comes to crawling, mining, cleansing and organizing a huge amount of data, independent data centers like Grepsr have made the job a lot more easier for the journalists and media houses in discovering newsworthy knowledge and information from the mountain of discrepant data.



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