How Big Data is Driving Big Journalism

, Posted on Sep 11


Already in 2014, we’ve seen the launch of several significant new media projects dedicated to exploring the link between big data and news. As PR professionals, we know it is critical to back up our media outreach with as many numbers as possible, but this new branch of journalism is taking that concept a step farther. In many cases, numbers are not just supporting the news – they are driving it.

New players

Nate Silver, a statistical genius who has driven advancement in fields as diverse as baseball statistics and political polling, launched in March. The site shares data-focused news and currently (as of September 2014) features 22 journalist/statistician contributors, covering subjects from sports and politics to music and food.

Silver launched the site after several years working with The New York Times on similar data-driven stories. Not to be outdone, The Times followed the same trend and launched its own “data journalism” project, called The Upshot, led by Pulitzer Prize winner David Leonhardt.

Both sites cover a wide array of topics. They follow political trends, dig deeper into data-critical news stories and contribute enterprise reporting based on numbers that may not make the story cut in the tight-turnaround world of news today. The single largest shift comes from the fact that the number truly drive the news, rather than the other way around.

Big data’s impact on PR

In a business climate that values tangible, measureable results, this style of journalism should be seen as a breath of fresh air. From a public relations perspective, it begs the question: What is the role of the PR professional in the world of big data?

At its most basic level, this trend increases the importance of sharing data as part of the media outreach process. On the whole, it will reward companies that share the numbers behind their success with more coverage. It makes it critical for PR professionals to find data to support our stories and to encourage our clients to be open about sharing available data to generate media attention.

Strong data will become increasingly important as more and more news outlets follow the path FiveThirtyEight and The Upshot are building. Being in the news today is all about adding value to the conversation, and, as these outlets make clear, numbers will continue to do more than support the news…they will lead it.

Do you see more media outlets jumping on the big data news bandwagon? Comment and let us know where you stand.