Data storytelling is an important marketing frontier.

By Chris Wexler

We live in the age of big data. You’ve heard it over and over. You believe it. And, it impacts your life. There are ways you see it, like Amazon and Netflix recommendations. There are also many ways you don’t, like complex algorithms that political parties use to determine which congressional district you live in.

But, if we are all being honest, the age of big data has felt like a bit of a dud. Nerds like me are THRILLED but the day-to-day for most people, even marketers, hasn’t fundamentally changed. That’s because the art of data storytelling is in its nascent stages.

Data without insight is nothing. Just a pile of 1s and 0s. But just pulling insight out of data can be flat. What is relevant to me may not be relevant to you. There may be data that has much more meaning to you than anyone else. How do you balance these issues?

The Upshot at the New York Times did a beautiful job with this yesterday, with a set of data on education efficacy made available by a group of researchers in California. The researchers did amazing (and hard) fundamental work of gathering the data. While the data was previously available, it was not accessible to many people. The Upshot brought accessibility to the availability and did it beautifully without minimizing the data’s complexity. And, it’s surrounded it with great reporting.

Pay attention to great data journalism – The Upshot at The New York Times, FiveThirtyEight at ESPN and many others. They take data and make it accessible and useful. As marketers, we must do the same.



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