Communicate data... like a journalist


Communicating is a key skill that any Web Analyst must master. Any web or digital analyst must be able to communicate data results, teach how to read dashboards, focus to the important metrics, and make a decision-maker understand that the answers he needs are there, in a report we just made.

If our goal is to drive change... our voice needs to be listened.

In the other hand, i'm sometimes surprised how well use data journalists. Let's face it: they know how to grab data and convert it in headlines. We could learn some of that too. In deed they are already learning from us: Data Journalism is a hot topic lately among journalists.

Let's take a look at Google Insights on "Data Journalism" searches:

 "Data journalism" searches in Google since 2004


So looks like it's trending hot. We see it in this chart. Let's just use this same case as example!

How would an average web analyst present this data we just obtained from Google Insights? Using Excel? PowerPoint? A table, a line chart, or a bar chart...? We would show the MoM and YoY variation metrics, and surely find a couple of KPI's related to this.

A journalist would just do like this:


Well... this would have "some" attention, don't you think?

Of course that this example is a dramatization. A play. But get the point here:

Communicating data is more than puking data on a spreadsheet.

Communicating data implies explaining it: where it comes from, what it means and what this implies.

At he end, journalist's work is transforming data and information in to news people will understand. Just like ours.

So, what can we learn from them?

  1. Use of headlines: We could use headlines to our reports. The monthly traffic report could be "Great month in Newsletter traffic compensated bad SEO performing".
  2. Use of info-graphics: Data visualization is complex and personally, i find it so hard to transmit with graphs and charts. Info-graphics can help. Put some creativity.
  3. Storytelling: Really! Some reports tell stories. A problem was detected, a solution was tested, some problems occured (there are always problems that show up), and some results arrived. Just make it look like an story the listener will like to follow.
  4. Know your audience: Always adapt the reports you show to the person who is going to read it. Don't think he'll be understanding it as you do.
  5. Create the context: It is, describing the scenario where this data or report exists, and explain it's implications. Data is never isolated and depends on many factors.
  6. Tell your sources: At least the data-sources! Journalist always remark the where the data comes from and if it's a trusted source. Do it too to gain other's confidence in your work.

Take this advices and use a little of it in your next report. You'll see the difference! Granted!

¿Do you know any other trick or technique we can learn from Journalists?