In the second post of my three-part series on newsworthy and high quality content, I’m going to write about using data. In case you’ve gotten ahead of yourself, go back to my post on coming up with newsworthy blog post ideas.
Why does data help with high quality content?
Most people have a love-hate relationship with numbers. They can’t do math to save their lives but numbers make information relevant. You can read about cyber-bullying but it won’t really hit home until you read a headline like “One in five young people suffer ‘extreme cyber-bullying’ every day with Facebook” (Thank you, Daily Mail). You think, Okay, I know five young people and the chances are one of them has been cyber-bullied.
Numbers can also be used to dismiss a point. It’s the reason people say “You’re more likely to get struck by lightning than win the lottery.” This can make for strong content too. An infographic like, ’10 Things That Probably Won’t Happen to You on Your Travels’ – e.g. You’re twice as likely to lose your passport than get mugged in Barcelona (I’m just making that up). That’s a pretty cool idea actually – don’t steal it! (Though if you’re a brand that wants to collaborate on making it real, get in touch!)
Numbers help people put information into perspective or in a way they can relate to it.
The first thing you need to deal with is where to find this data. In the words of Love, Actually:
If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that data actually is all around.
That’s not exactly what Hugh Grant said, but I’m a sucker for pop culture references. Seriously, data is everywhere.
Google Trends and Google Insights can be a good place to start when you’re looking for information about internet users.
There are regular censuses, surveys and government documentation that they are required to give the public access to. I recently came across data that said more Erasmus students are in transnational relationships than those who didn’t study abroad. I pitched stories about transnational couples, my own transnational relationship, and how to survive them being in the situation when Erasmus is over.
Get in touch with a brand and ask them for some data they’ve collected – SkyScanner and momondo collect plenty of information about travel search trends. Spotify has an Insights page on listening trends around the world. Even the dating website OkCupid collects statistics on their users. Get in touch with their PR team and let them know your idea. They’ll probably be happy to help if the story sounds newsworthy and like they will get good press out of it.
Knowledge is power – use theirs to your advantage.
No one says you can’t collect data yourself. Do a survey of your readers or a poll on your Facebook page and see what kind of information that gets you.
Turn the Data Into a Story
Do you remember writing high school science reports? You had the Question, Hypothesis, Procedure, Results and the Conclusion until one of your science teachers introduced the Discussion section. This requires analysis: interpreting the data and explaining what it means.
That’s what you have to do with any data you collect or discover. Turn it into a story by asking yourself what question do you want to answer.
Look for outliers
A story about the overview in the data is great for a global understanding of the information but the there is a curiosity about the data that doesn’t fit with the rest. Perhaps you found that one part of the UK is rated as ‘happier’ than the rest. Why not go there and interview some residents about what makes them so happy? Try to find out the reason behind the outlying data and how everyone can benefit from the information
Present the Data in a Cool or Interesting Way
Readers want information in the fastest and most visually appealing way possible. That’s what makes for high quality content: people want to read it, share it, and discuss it. There are many different ways to display information:
Data Visualization & Infographics
My opinion is that data visualization and infographics are different. Essentially, if I can look at the graphic and immediately understand what you’re getting at, it’s data visualization. If I have to scroll down or read extensively, it’s an infographic.
Word Clouds are great when you’re trying to show common features of something. For example, say you’ve done interviews with customers for a market research assignment and you want to show your client what people think of their product. Put all of the interview text into a program like Wordle and you’ll see what the common descriptions are. This is a word cloud of this post:
You can see what the most important terms are here and quickly grasp what the post is going to be about. It’s a fun way to start with keyword research – put all of your clients’ content in there and see what words jump out at you.
Using data will give your stories and content weight and authority. The ability to sift through large data sets and distill it into usable and digestible information is a skill that will help you create unique, newsworthy content. Bonus points if you can surprise or wow your readers by seeing data in a way no one else has before.
Don’t forget to check back next for Part III of the Newsworthy Content Series, Quotes, Sources, and Interviews: The Human Element
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