Data visualisations give news organisations a way to illustrate certain aspects of a story and convey the meaning and impact behind more complex data sets to audiences in a more interesting way, helping them put the information into a wider context.
However, these often take time and resources to produce, and for smaller news outlets without a dedicated graphics department, they could present more of a challenge than an opportunity.
Through a new collaboration with semantic technology company Graphiq, Reuters wants to make it easier for publishers to make use of interactive data visualisations to accompany their reporting.
"We're always evaluating new technologies and looking for things that might complement the work that we already do," Bo Rosser, global head of text and data products for Reuters, told Journalism.co.uk.
"After meeting with Graphiq, we realised this would be a great way for us to turn some of our text content from the newswire into a multimedia offering."
The individual data visualisations created by Graphiq will be available for free to publishers through the Reuters Open Media Express platform and news outlets who are existing Reuters customers will be able to download them as part of the news agency's multimedia packages.
Some examples available as part of the new collaboration include data on the unemployment rate and jobs created and lost in the United States, the favourability of the EU in member countries and figures on the most recent earthquakes in Italy, but also coverage of softer news, such as an interactive timeline about actor Gene Wilder.
The graphics, which can also be accessed on mobile, can be embedded on any website, and the data within them updates in real-time. This can be a helpful aspect for publishers, particularly in situations such as breaking news, where these type of formats are more likely to accompany the story later on than in the early stages of reporting.
The interactive data visualisations also offer some customisation options, such as resizing and the ability to display the information in a list format or as a comparison between different data points.
"Graphiq aims to turn [an interactive data visualisation] around within 20 minutes if they have to create it from scratch," Rosser said.
"But they can also search in their library. For example, when the Nice attacks happened in France, they would look at all the other attacks that had happened in France or Europe within a certain timeframe in order to be able to draw from the historical data they had available, and customise it based on what the specific news is."
Graphiq has a team of more than 50 researchers and data scientists, tasked with looking at specific domains and collecting data on a variety of topics, from both public and private sources.
The team then works to configure templates for terms that people are most likely to search for online, and uses semantic technology to allow users to search for specific data using natural language – for example, 'which European country has the highest unemployment rates?' – and receive ready-made data visualisations instantly as a result.
Alex Rosenberg, vice president of enterprise at Graphiq, told Journalism.co.uk via email that Graphiq's goal is have "data on everything" in the future.
"The challenge that Graphiq is aiming to solve is three-fold – editors don't know what news will break today, they want to be able to search for multimedia assets in a natural language and they want a variety of high-quality multimedia options to choose from," he explained.
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