First birthday candle
Credit: Thinkstock

Socially-shareable data journalism platform Ampp3d turned one year old this month, walking a "tricky line" between data journalism and stories that appeal to a tabloid audience.

Editor Anna Leach told that after a year of working on Ampp3d, she sees data and numbers as just another source for news stories.

"I don't think there is something that intrinsically different in data journalism from 'normal' journalism and I think it's a little bit set to one side," she said.

"A number is evidence in the same way a quotation is."

Ampp3d started off as a standalone data blog from Trinity Mirror last December, but has since been incorporated into the Mirror website.

Leach says finding stories that "tick all the right boxes" can be a fine line to tread.

"Do you put all the laborious sourcing qualifications at the top, or do they come later? Do you get a strong enough headline if you're doing that?

"How you balance the need to correctly present the data and getting a good tabloid story is tricky," she explained.

The approach to data journalism at Ampp3d has received its share of criticism, such as this blog post by the Guardian's special projects editor James Ball which refers to some of the site's content as "clickable, but not useful".

However, Leach said that while the team does "go for strong headlines", the sourcing is accurate.

"We do push for a strong line at the top of a story, but it's always clear and it should be clear all the way through the story where things come from, why we've chosen to present things in certain ways – and we've always corrected any mistakes that we've had," she said.

She explained data journalism for a tabloid audience was about finding stories that "capture the imagination" and looking past the top line of a data set.

For example, a story looking at prices of food throughout Europe as outlined in a dataset from Eurostat ran with the headline Why this is the most expensive sandwich in Europe.

"We're trying to engage a slightly different audience to the standard data statistics crowd," she said, adding that political stories, such as a visual representation of the impact of the benefit cap introduced by the Coalition government last year, have been popular with Ampp3d's readership.

Leach said Ampp3d has been building up a "feisty younger voice" on social media, looking at stories from the left wing angle of the Mirror.

She added that their presence on Twitter is "stronger" than Facebook, but as Facebook is a more significant driver of traffic, the Ampp3d team need to focus more on pinning down what works.

"I feel we still haven't quite cracked data journalism on Facebook," she said, explaining that the social network feels like more of a personal space than Twitter.

She said some of the stories that are being shared a lot on Facebook deal with politics and express strong opinions.

Posting opinionated messages has proven to be a successful Twitter strategy, said Leach, highlighting the outlet's live-tweeting of the BBC's political panel Question Time as an example.

Ampp3d also relies on easily shareable graphics to explain complex ideas quickly.

"Making sure everyone has got graphics software and everyone can do graphics has really been a big improvement in the last six months," she explained.

Next year, Leach wants to expand on Ampp3d's visual storytelling by also including more complex interactive elements into stories.

"[And] we're also trying to integrate a bit deeper into The Mirror to complement their coverage a bit more," she added.

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