#newsrw: Keep the audience interested with interactivity

The developing the data story session gave predictions for the future – that it will be lots of screens and HTML5 – and how the Guardian would like to lengthen the life span of the data journalism news story.

Paul Bradshaw, visiting professor, City University and founder of used the principal of toys to give ideas on developing the data story and explained the importance of  “future proofing the information we are gathering”, saying “that’s one of the big commercial imperatives”.

Conrad Quilty-Harper, data mapping reporter at the Telegraph, explained how creating maps adds to a story by using the example of a map on bike sharing schemes he created (though did not publish) using “Google Fusion Tables and a bit of javascript”.

He recommends Google Maps and says the trailblazer of a news site using Google Fusion tables is the Texas Tribune.

One of the Telegraph’s examples Quilty-Harper gave was a map of what the UK would look like if the 2010 election was decided by people voting under the AV.

He said the Telegraph is moving away from Flash graphics, which is not supported by the iPad.

“My proudest example” was a live interactive Royal Wedding map which “worked brilliantly for three hours”.

It showed some of the best tweets and were geolocated on the map. “We’ve got the data and we’re going to analyse it and do something with it in the future,” he said. “It tells you what people in specific locations were thinking”.

The Telegraph would like to use the technology in a crisis news story, such as an earthquake or conflict.

“There’s a lot of under used resource” in the UK when it comes to creating maps, Quilty-Harper explained, saying the US is ahead of the game.

He gave a tip that the Met office has an amazing resource of data on weather.

Federica Cocco is editor of and demonstrated the power of bloggers, data journalists, activists and graphic designers working together.

OWNI considers itself a think tank and as describes what they do as “augmented journalism”.

She showed examples a map demonstrating internet freedom in Europe and this impressive interactive piece of data journalism of shale gas extraction, which in cases has contaminated drinking water supplies.

Alastair Dant, lead interactive technologist at the Guardian, gave a run down of how news websites use interactive content.

He listed the use of photos, slideshows, the interactive timeline, maps, charts and graphics, open-ended systems or “games”, which are interactive and allow users to make choices about what should happen, for example.

In explaining how interactivity assists data visualisation, he used an example of captured Twitter traffic during the World Cup showing “data in motion”.

In the case of the Afghan war logs he said “we wanted to create film like experience” using the data.

His view of the future is one of “lots of screens” as people use phones and tablet devices and of HTML5, which provides cross browser compatibility, overcoming the current problem.

Dant’s two tips for making interactive content are:

1. Google Fusion Tables

2. Tableau

A question on how interactivity affects the audience and visitor numbers resulted in Paul Bradshaw discussing how many interactive maps and graphics go viral.

“With interactivity you get engagement”, Bradshaw said, and people spend a lot more time on the page – five times longer in the case of the data store, Bradshaw said.

For the Telegraph the AV map was particularly popular with audiences.

Simon Rogers of the Guardian said the amount of work that goes in to many data stories warrants a greater lifespan and said that interactive posts may soon have a life beyond the news story, for example in Facebook, something being worked on at the paper.

Note: This article has been updated on 4 September 2019 and link to the website was removed as it became inactive.

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