“We’ve only just started really” Q&A: FT’s Rob Minto on data visualisation and infographics

Rob Minto is interactive editor at the Financial Times, with responsibility for interactive graphics, multimedia, audio and blogs. He has also been the FT’s technology correspondent, and has worked at the paper for more than six years.

Before the FT, Rob worked as an online editor at the Risk Waters Group (now Incisive Media) and as a journalist and online editor for Euromoney magazine.

Rob will be taking part in our panel discussion Interactives: A look at how interactives, data visualisations and infographics can become a selling point for specialist websites –  from how to build them to why they’re important to online storytelling.

Follow this link to see the full agenda.

Click here to purchase tickets for news:rewired – the nouveau niche.

Tell us a bit about your work for the FT
I run the interactive desk, which covers multimedia, interactive graphics, blogs, and podcasts. Video is in a separate department, but we collaborate a lot.

How are interactives, data visualisations and infographics changing journalism?
There are two types – the “tell a story” type, that make data come to life and give the user a better understanding; and the “work it out yourself” type, which allow the user to play with the variables and find their own story. The first is an extension of traditional journalism, but with far more appealing and engaging presentation. The second is more revolutionary, and allows the audience to become part of the story.

Do you think they are particularly useful for niche or specialist publishers?
They are useful for all publishers. I don’t see any reason why it should make a difference. Every publisher wants to capture attention, whether niche or generalist.

What does interactive storytelling bring to the FT in particular?
For the audience, it is a great way of delving deeper into a story. We try to hit the big stories, rather than cover everything, but sometimes we’ll try to do something a bit different. We often cover complex stories that benefit from using multimedia to explain what’s going on. In terms of the brand, it shows how far the FT has come from being just a print-based publication. We have journalists and editors who are fantastic presenters, so audio and video are great for showing that. In terms of data and graphics, its about collecting, capturing and making accessible some of the interesting data sources that come our way, and showing another side to the story. We’ve only just started, really.

What online tool or bit of software could you not live without as an interactive editor?
There are several that are crucial: Photoshop, Flash, Audition, FinalCut, Excel are industry standards for putting projects together. But personally, the tool that I turn to for so many tasks that is brilliant is TextPad – I use it for editing actionscript, PHP, javascipt, xml, editing copy, manipulating data, writing notes. It’s simple yet has tons of features.

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