Database journalism

Article  by  Caroline GOULARD  •  Published 08.10.2010  •  Updated 14.10.2010
For a public increasingly distrustful of traditional media,  database journalism has emerged in recent years as a new way of processing and spreading massive amounts of information in clear-cut, visual fashion.

Summary

Introduction

A study carried out by researchers from the University of San Diego[+] NoteLes Américains consomment en moyenne 100 000 mots par jour, 10 décembre 2009.X      [1] showed that the average American household is exposed to 100,000 words on a daily basis[+] NoteLEMONDE.FR, Les Américains consomment en moyenne 100 000 mots par jour, 10 décembre 2009, X [2]. In the midst of the digital hypermnesia, we are facing an unprecedented flood of information. The sophistication and multiplication of information sources – blogs, aggregators, pure-players, multi-media consumption – has ushered in a world of infobesity and poor information.
New needs have therefore arisen. Advanced filters and significant levels of expertise are required to turn a large volume of data into a meaningful piece.
 
Meanwhile, a general distrust towards traditional media has been increasingly witnessed. It seems as though the public is eager to seek information straight from the source, without any further mediation. The way information is consumed has gone through dramatic changes, ultimately bringing about independent, distrustful behavior.
 
Database journalism lies at the crossroads of the two main trends. In a word, it consists of collecting, sorting, cross-checking, analyzing and visualizing complex databases, in order to extract clear, understandable information. Using the latest technologies of data processing, database journalism aims to create visual, eye-catching media to overcome the complexity of a world flooded with information.
 
In this respect, how can database journalism actually appeal to the public? Which skills are required to fulfill such an endeavor to “make data talk”? What are the business perspectives of this fairly recent initiative? Why is database journalism having a hard time developing in France, while flourishing across the Atlantic since 2007?
 
First of all, the reasons why database journalism is widely viewed as a new way of processing and spreading information will be further explained (1). Thriving on technological and social evolutions, it has managed to secure general acknowledgment and credibility in the United States (2). Essential to any future perspectives, the business model of database journalism will also be reviewed (3), alongside its main protagonists, from the forerunners to the latest players, all contributing to this great history in the making (4).
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Database journalism: a new mode of information processing

In its broad aspects, database journalism consists of processing large databases to extract clear information. Obscure statistics and dull, scattered data are reordered in eye-catching fashion.
 
In this respect, database journalism fulfills the main objectives of tradition journalism: to collect raw, valuable information and tailor it to match the public's needs. However, the perception of the journalist's role is drastically different, which will be explained later on. First of all, database journalism speaks to the reader's visual, rather than verbal intelligence. Therefore, it can alternatively take the form of enriched databases, interactive graphs, mobile applications, timelines, rich-media[+] NoteA. JOANNES, Communiquer en rich media : Structurer les contenus en optimisant textes, sons, images et liens, Paris, CFPJ Edition, 2009X [3]maps, etc.

Spanish newspaper El Pais designed an animation to display the GNP forecasts issued by the IMF
 

Traditionally, the article – or story – is the main unit of reference in the world of journalism. Database journalism brings about a new standard, as databases are regarded as the primary element. As the spotlight is on figures, comments and writing are relegated to a position of secondary importance. Instead of classic storytelling, titles and catchlines, it is now all about speaking the language of figures, databases, graphs, dynamics maps and visualizations. “Newspapers need to stop the story-centric worldview” US journalist Adrian Holovaty claimed back in 2006[+] Note A. HOLOVATY, A fundamental Way Newspapers Need to Change, holovaty.com, 6 September 2006, X [4].
 
Mix of visualizations and database journalism examples, monitored between November 2009 and January 2010.
 

This revolutionary perspective has more than one ace up its sleeve to attract a diverse public.
First of all, an extremely wide range of topics can be processed and presented, from the amount of public debt to the evolution of unemployment figures. Although essential, this kind of topic is hardly ever understood by the average public, because of the lack of context and the flood of conflicting information. In the first place, database journalism strives to reconcile the public with precise figures, through clear, eye-catching computer graphics. To put it simply, the amount of France's public debt becomes much more meaningful when it becomes possible to browse through its evolution and compare it to other countries. Among the possibilities of database journalism, one can put current events into perspective, better assess long terms shifts and discover in-depth analysis. Through the means of relevant visualizations, data carefully gathered over the years can disclose insightful information.
For example, this visualization designed by Nathan Yan skillfully traces the birth and spread of Wal-Mart supermarkets throughout the United States.
 
Rapid Growth of Walmart by Nathan Yau – July 2008
 
 Furthermore, databases never grow outdated. Data, and therefore visualizations, can be updated permanently or even refreshed, should databases be linked to live sensors or information flows.
To go one step further, database journalism sometimes turns out to be more efficient at catching a reader's attention than traditional writing.
This idea is particularly backed up by the Eyetracking The News study , carried out by Sara Quinn on information reading habits. For the purpose of this experiment, 600 US Americans were approached. Three versions of the same news related to bird flu were provided to all as follows:
-         a classic narrative article
-         a narrative article with complementary graphs
-         tables, maps and figures, with no narrative structure whatsoever
According to Sara Quinn, the latter was not only voted as the most comprehensive out of the three, it also happened to be the most eye-catching in the readers' eyes.
However, it is obvious that as tremendous as these results may be, they would not necessarily be observed with other topics. Generally speaking, health-related headlines lend themselves well to database journalism, due to the large amount of figures from which to pick. On the other hand, narrative writing remains relevant to address more subjective topics[+] NoteP. BELLEROSE, Les lecteurs sont plus attentifs sur le Web, infopresse.com, 3 March 2008, X [5].
 
Database journalism also aims to reach out to versatile, on-the-go readers, who have no intention whatsoever of reading through ten wordy pages and hardly understand the stakes of the Iraq War or the Clearstream affair. However, since a picture is worth a thousand words, one can simply marvel at the human ability to assimilate complex information through the means of visual mediation. Visual information allows for a level of memorization in many ways superior to what words could ever offer[+] NoteC. TRICOT, Pourquoi utiliser des cartes, point de vue scientifique, blog.onomia.com, 12 May 2010, X [6].
         
 
The Washington Post created a word cloud out of several political speeches.
 
At its core, database journalism therefore calls for information visualization. This is one of the main components of rich media processing and an expression of visual journalism. In order to enshrine the superiority of images over words as optimal media, database journalism requires advanced skills in computer graphics as well as visual and graphic semiotics. Ultimately, each color, each shape must make sense instantly.
 
For this visualization of American movie hits since 1986, the nytimes.com has put a particular emphasis on shapes and colors. Among other things, this eye-catching visualization allows readers to compare the most award-winning films with their economic profitability.

Database journalism not only speaks to a reader's visual intelligence; the call for advanced kinetics and interactions is absolutely central. The most successful examples of data visualization include interactive features, inviting the user to play with data and thus better memorize the main information displayed. Anyone can then browse through a database, zoom in, customize a graph, select specific parameters to pick from or even add personal data.

 
In order to better explain a political espionage affair in Madrid, elpais.com designed this animated and interactive visualization.

Database journalism also satisfies the increasing need to customize information. The phenomenon of delinearization, alongside ever more individual consumption habits, is now a distinctive feature of the internet. In light of these new trends, flexible information has become a dire necessity. Resorting to computer graphics to make sense of complex databases also provides the user with the possibility to query and highlight a specific piece of information: geographical locations, zooming, time lines, etc. Therefore, the implementation of database journalism virtually meets user expectations about whatever interest they may have. Every visualization thus becomes unique, perfectly tailored to user needs, every step of their internet journey.
In addition to the possibility of customizing computer graphics, internet users are given the opportunity to collect and qualify data through the process of crowd sourcing[+] NoteCrowdsourcing consists of leveraging a wide range of skills displayed by internet users. The aggregation of such efforts aims to achieve a complicated and/or time-consuming task. X [7]. In order to highlight a 458,000 page strong file on the MP expenses scandal, British newspaper the Guardian asked some volunteering readers to analyze tiny bits of it. In the event of a non-existent database, the strength of database journalism lies in its unparalleled ability to elicit crowd participation.
Likewise, with the help of hundreds of internet users, the French team from Owni.fr managed to geolocate polling stations across the country, prior to opening this database to the public, for free.

 

Owni's “Où je vote” (Where do I vote?) visualization.

Therefore, database journalism is not merely a way to deliver information; it also alters the way information is collected. Internet users can be frequently called upon to gather new data or refresh old databases, at times disclosing unsuspected, great quality material from official sources – IMF, UN, House of Commons – for the purpose of journalistic investigation.
 
 
A careful analysis by Guardian readers of a 458,000 page long document on the expenses of British MPs brought to light an unprecedented scandal concerning the spending of public funds.

In its attempt to disclose new information, data-based investigation requires a wide range of advanced skills. First in line, the ability to read into large databases, cross-check several types of data, and master computer graphics tools. Such skills hardly belong to the traditional field of journalism – hence the necessity of borrowing certain scientific techniques[+] NoteF. EPELBOIN & S. PEREZ, Découverte majeure à propos de l’influence sur Twitter, Read Write Web France, 22 March 2010, X [8].
For this matter, the Enron scandal provides a good example. In October 2003, the American Federal Energy Regulatory Commission publicly disclosed over 20,000 e-mails sent between 1999 and 2002, for the needs of the ongoing police investigation. Such data provided an insightful glimpse of day-to-day interactions amongst Enron top managers, in the midst of a business downturn. Thriving on this database, engineers from Trampoline Systems designed a map of social networks and personal interests within the company. This visualization particularly highlighted significant gaps when comparing the official activities of the company with the actual concerns of its employees.

 

The Enron Explorer, created by Trampoline Systems in 2006, illustrates the activities and reactions shared by the management team of the company.

In a word, database journalism has established itself as a new journalistic technique, along with investigations, interviews and reports. It does not intend to replace existing forms on journalism in any way, nor does it consist of a mere illustration of a primary written article. A journalistic genre in its own right, database journalism therefore requires a thorough effort of source-checking, as well as hindsight, investigation and relevant storytelling.
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A journalistic trend shaped by technological and social evolutions: from Computer Assisted Reporting to the new challeng

Without a doubt, database journalism finds its roots in the Computer Assisted Reporting (CAR) process, which consisted in using computers to collect the data required to write articles. With the generalization of the computer and Internet use in the early 1990s, communication through emails, statistical analysis software, spread sheets, cartography systems, search engines, etc. have dramatically changed the way journalists work on a daily basis, especially in the United States.
In September 2006, American journalist, entrepreneur and developer Adrian Holovaty wrote the founding manifesto of database journalism, A Fundamental Way Newspapers Need to Change. Here, Holovaty mainly advocates the study of complex databases for journalistic purposes. According to the author, information gathered by journalists within the frame of their investigations can also be considered as “structured” data which one can aggregate, shuffle and compile just like precise figures. This conception has drawn several media groups such as the BBC, the Guardian, the New York Times and the American National Public Radio into developing public APIs[+] Note An Application Programming Interface, or API, allows software developers to publish on their website extracts of another website. In other words, it consists of bridging relationships between contents of different websites.X [9] explaining the data gathered on their websites[+] NoteJ. JARVIS, APIs The News Distribution, buzzmachine.com, 10 March 2009, X [10] – a major turning point demonstrating that media professionals now consider themselves as data providers as well as news publishers.
The Theyworkforyou website, launched in 2004 by MySociety in the United Kingdom, can be viewed as the very first database journalism project, along with Govtrack.us, developed by Civicimpulse.com (2004) and Holovaty-designed Chicagocrime.org (2005). All in all, database journalism soared in the United States from 2007 onwards.
Theyworkforyou and Govtrack.us were created by volunteers, striving to elaborate an enhanced follow-up of parliamentary and congressional activities. Both websites draw on data published on official websites such as the British Hansard or the American Library of Congress. Data is reorganized in a more accessible fashion, brightened up with search engines and debating chat rooms. In the process, the creators of those two applications have bypassed the copyrights protecting the original databases[+] NoteC. GOULARD, Opendata : les leçons des expériences anglo-saxonnes, 31 May 2010, X [11].
The generalization of the Web has therefore ushered in a world full of opportunities for journalists. Since room constraints are no longer an issue – contrary to any print publication – journalists can provide their readers with more detailed analysis, for example by releasing the entire database their investigations are based on. This is an indisputable step forward in terms of transparency, quality and credibility. The internet has also brought about interaction, whereas traditional media mostly forces a top-down approach to information consumption. Prior to this digital revolution, it was indeed impossible to zoom in on a map, sort specific criteria or geographical locations, or even launch animated graphics on any traditional media.
 
Many American information websites have launched their own “Data Centers”, where online databases can be gathered, as well as interactive maps and web application hybrids (mashups).
For example, the Washington Post-owned, hyper-local news website Loudoun Extra published a list of all local schools, along with fact sheets, a Google map and pictures of classrooms. All in all, the application enjoyed tremendous popularity among the parents concerned by the local education facilities.
The website of newspaper Indianapolis Star published diverse local databases – of emergency calls, property taxes, manager wages, levels of delinquency, sports and academic results, etc. Between March and October 2007, 7.2 million unique pages from the databases had been viewed[+] NoteS. BUTTRY, Databases help you become the source for answers, newspapernext.org, 13 august 2007, X [12].
Likewise, the website of regional newspaper Cincinnati Enquirer also started to publish databases in 2007, ranging from sexual offenses and tobacco-related complaints to Ohio River casino gains and real estate prices. On its opening day, the Data Center set up by the newspaper recorded over 67,000 viewed pages, a figure twice as high as the estimated traffic on the most popular photo galleries of the Cincinnati Enquirer website. The average number of pages viewed per visit was close to 11.5, which suggests a genuine interest among the users to browse through the contents displayed[+] Note S. BUTTRY, Databases help you become the source for answers, newspapernext.org, 13 august 2007, X [13].
Finally, the Data Universe of the Asbury Park Press website gathered over 40 million page views within six months following its December 2006 launch. The most popular database was the one displaying the wages of the federal employees, with over 4 million views in less than three months[+] NoteS. BUTTRY, Databases help you become the source for answers, newspapernext.org, 13 august 2007, X [14].
        
On its website, American daily The News Journal (Ganett Corporation) published www.delawareonline.com a map of crime levels in the state of Delaware, based on a Google Map application.

 The overwhelming success of such Data Centers launched by local American newspapers reveals another feature of database journalism: the ability to access the micro-local. Neighborhoods and communities are always fond of this kind of information anyone can relate to, yet not significant enough to be mentioned in a print publication. In a word, it is all about answering the simple everyday question, “What made that bell ring in my neighborhood?” When properly used at this level, database journalism can be used by journalists as a powerful social tool to nurture a close relationship with the local population.
 
This importance of database journalism was notably acknowledged in 2007 by the Knight Foundation, which awarded a $ 1.1 million prize to the Everyblock project, brought by Adrian Holovaty. Everyblock is an aggregator of micro-local news, gathered from urban areas across the United States. Launched in 2007, the service now covers 16 cities and is visited by more than 200,000 people on a monthly basis, despite the lack of any editorial work. In April 2009, the Politifact launched by the Saint Petersburg Times was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for its project, which consists of checking all the data and figures put forward by politicians in their speeches.
 
The Politifact designed by the Saint Petersburg Times also breaks down the number of promises kept, in the works, or broken by the incumbent government.
 

Since 2009, database journalism has been thriving on Anglo-American initiatives calling for public data unlocking[+] NoteC. GOULARD, Opendata : les leçons des expériences anglo-saxonnes, blog.activusu.fr, 31 May 2010, X [15]. As they launched data.gov in May 2009 and data.gov.uk in January 2010, the Obama and Brown governments helped revive the general interest in data visualization. Such platforms pledge to make large databases available to the public for free, providing an ideal opportunity to be seized by every citizen journalist. Such experiences have therefore greatly reinforced the voice of database journalism specialists, who have not ceased to call for further data unlocking.
 
The open data movement is not the only social evolution that will condition the future of database journalism. As far as automatic data-collecting techniques such as RFID chips go, it has become a dire necessity to master those technologies. The Data Deluge[+] NoteThe Data Deluge, economist.com, 25 February 2010, X [16]  and its implications go way beyond editorial concerns. As a matter of fact, such issues have come to be of scientific and artistic interest, as shown by the studies carried out by Manuel Lima, founder of the VisualComplexity website.
           
 

 According to interaction designer Manuel Lima, founder of VisualComplexity.com, the visualization of information is one of the main “challenges of this century”.
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Database journalism and the cost VS revenue equation

It has been explained how database journalism has progressively been acknowledged as a new mode of information processing. However, its business model requires closer scrutiny.
Beyond its numerous assets, has database journalism actually managed to win over substantial audience levels? This is the conclusion suggested by many experiments carried out in this domain. This new genre is especially likely to boost both reader numbers and loyalty.
As a matter of fact, during Super Tuesday in the 2008 US election campaign, the most viewed page of the nytimes.com consisted of interactive computer graphics[+] Note E. SCHERER, Context is king, AFP Mediawatch, autonme/hivers 2009/2010.X [17]. More precisely, micro-local databases are the pages that gather the most visits. On the local news website www.texastribune.org, such material attracts almost three times as many visitors as the written articles. Databases make up one third of the 5.3 million viewed pages on the website since its creation in November 2009[+] Note E. SMITH, T-Squared: The Six-Month Stats, texastribune.org, 10 May 2010, X [18].
All of this indeed leaves little doubt that database journalism is able to attract a significant amount of readers. However, is this sufficient to create a sustainable business model? What kind of revenue sources can be imagined? 
On the cost side, database journalism is a huge human undertaking and time-consumer. It is therefore necessary to call upon educated, multi-skilled people to make data visualization happen. Beyond mere data publishing, it is about collecting, exploring, cross-checking, reorganizing and extracting understandable information from complex databases. Such an endeavor requires a wide range of talents: statistics, computer graphics, web design, development (back and front office), interaction design, information architecture and ergonomics. Obviously, not all editorial offices can afford to hire the thirty people who make up the computer graphics department at the New York Times[+] NoteC. GOULARD, La visualisation de l’information au New York Times : structures, compétences, influences, blog.actuvisu.com, 24 May 2010, X [19].
However, signs tend to show that such technical needs are taken ever more seriously across the Atlantic. For example, in April 2010, the Columbia University School of Journalism announced that a dual degree in journalism and computer science would be created. Eventually, the aim is to provide future journalists with both editorial and technical knowledge, so that they are able to “speak the language of the developers”[+] NoteColumbia University to offer journalism-computer science degree, 8 April 2010, technology.inquirer.net.X [20]. In France, the education system remains poorly adapted to the challenges afoot[+] NoteF. EPELBOIN, Le journalisme de données, les données ouvertes, et la dictature de la transparence, fr.readwriteweb.com, 19 October 2009, X [21].
          

 

An everyday-relevant application by the nytimes.com: is it better to buy or rent one’s home?

On the revenue side: how can such investments be paid for? Several possibilities are available to editors.
As this kind of content attracts the audience towards a fresh “information experience”, they can become a prized advertising platform, especially regarding the high level of user return. Editors can thus be in a position to negotiate interesting advertising deals.
Likewise, since those contents offer a valuable alternative to aggregators and blogs, editors could attempt to charge the users for such high-quality, understandable information. Although such an initiative would make sense from a service perspective, one must first assess users’ willingness to pay.
From a broader outlook, database journalism can be perfectly considered as the showcase of a media brand. In other words, editors could resort to this in order to appeal to both the public and advertisers. In the innovation-reluctant French web sphere, there is little doubt that those who provide database journalism on their website will secure a tremendous first-mover advantage in terms of valuable publicity.
On top of this, if editors agree to move away from their traditional targets, it is likely that database journalism could flourish in new markets. If a newspaper’s journalists spend a significant amount of time collecting scattered data, the possibility of selling such clean databases is not negligible. Previously unreleased, value-added material could potentially interest economic, marketing and education players. For example, a respected media brand may want to provide students with specialized databases for exam revision, or offer financial directors new ways to visualize strategic business data.
Another possibility consists in improving the distribution system. What is the best way to access interactive visualizations: personal computers, electronic readers or interactive terminals in public spaces? The example provided by financial specialist press agency Bloomberg is interesting in this respect. It has made a special terminal available for finance professionals that enables them to access relevant databases, live market information, tables, selected links and business trends. The service, along with terminal rent, was charged $ 1,800 per month[+] NoteF. FILLOUX, Can Data Revitalize journalism, mondaynote.com, 28 June 2009, X [22], a substantial source of revenue. But not every editor will consider a career in hardware manufacturing. However, this does not rule out the necessity for editors to keep a close eye on the native application strategies – those, such as some of Apple's iPad and iPhone applications which charge for content as an entry barrier. Although such strategies hinder the free movement of users, they may represent the future of a new world of information ahead, paved with ergonomics and renewed aesthetics.
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Anglo-American forerunners VS hesitant French initiatives: why French players fail to take over database journalism

One can not help but acknowledge that the forerunners of database journalism are either British or Americans, never French.
First in line, the New York Times has allegedly developed the most innovative and eye-catching visualizations. Its partnership with IBM, which designed the visualization software ManyEyes, helped create an interactive “visualization lab” allowing any Internet user to create customized data visualization.

Case study: The New York Times

The Guardian has played a prominent role in the public data unlocking debate in the UK by issuing the “Give Us Back Our Crown Jewels” manifesto in 2006. On a daily basis, both its Datablog and Datastore still advocate the necessity of making public data available. Back in 2006, the manifesto put forth the idea that any data collected using taxpayer money should be made public. The newspaper regularly designs exemplary visualizations and organizes data visualizations competitions to foster innovation. For fear of transparency issues, the Guardian systematically releases – as Google Docs - the original data the visualizations are based upon. The newspaper famously encourages its readers to re-use this data and to publish their own visualizations.

Case study: The Guardian

Beyond the Anglo-American sphere, Spanish newspaper El Pais stands out thanks to its visual journalism desk. In the early 2000s, this section mostly hosted traditional, non-interactive computer graphics. In recent years, it has begun designing advanced visualizations as part of a genuine storytelling process.

Case study: El Pais

On the other hand, the French database journalism landscape is lacking such levels of innovation. The only related initiatives have come from pure players such as Mediapart and Rue89, which have launched participative maps. Le Post.fr went one step further by analyzing the issue of plurality of political offices in very database journalism-like fashion.
 
Case study: The French pure players

Although the French experiments remain hesitant, the future holds great promises, thanks to the commitment displayed by dynamic student initiatives.
For example, the Actuvisu project aims to embark on the great adventure in database journalism. The team is made up of students from both the Master in Media Management at the Rennes Institute of Political Studies and the Haute Ecole des Technologies de l'Information et de la Communication (HETIC Paris), as part of the mixed skills mentioned above. Their website, totally dedicated to the interactive visualization of information, was launched in June 2010[+] NotePlease note that the author of the article is also the founder of the Actuvisu student projectX [23].
All in all, it seems that the traditional French media, despite some exceptions[+] Note See the interactive map of unemployment in France designed by Pierre Bance and David Castello Lopes, or the Sarkomètre by the French magazine Nouvel Observateur.X [24], is more reluctant to jump on the data visualization bandwagon than their British and American counterparts. How can one explain such a gap?
As a matter of fact, both editorial issues and the quality of available data shed light on this pressing question.
On the editorial side, most French media outlets invest very little money in research and development, therefore failing to focus on new trends such as database journalism. Daily newspapers simply cannot afford it, while most pure players are still struggling to attain a sustainable business model. Finally, the economic downturn has dramatically discouraged magazines and television editors from investing in this field.
In addition to declining revenues, most editorial offices must cope with the difficulty of hiring new people enjoying the computer skills mentioned above. In France, the optimal combination of editorial and technical talents has yet to be achieved. On the other hand, it is obvious that this combination is precisely at the root of the tremendous success enjoyed by the visualizations designed by the New York Times teams. Financially placed on a equal footing with the journalists, computer engineers, graphics experts and developers can fully optimize their skills, for the purpose of the common good. In France, there is still a long way to go, as the “computer people” remain too often poorly considered within editorial offices. Although this phenomenon is allegedly less common among the pure players, it remains a significant hurdle for the development of database journalism in our country.
Concerning the external reasons explaining the lack of French initiatives, one should not forget that the success of this new genre is contingent upon the quality of public data made available. In the United States, many databases have been made public, therefore greatly facilitating the task of data-driven journalists. In France, the cultural differences and the more conservative stance on public transparency must not be overlooked.
In the US and the UK, prominent politicians have been underlining the economic interest tied to the unlocking of public data for years: better use of strategic data, more services, enhanced business opportunities, more innovation, and fair information – all of which creates the conditions for greater economic growth. On the contrary, French politicians have not yet reached this consensus on the economic value of unlocking public data. Besides, companies that base their activities on data privatization have no interest in such open access. The economic advantage of data unlocking has not yet defeated the old strategy of charging for data access via licensing. The policy implemented by the French IGN (National Geographical Institute) reflects this[+] NoteC. GOULARD, Que fait l’IGN pour les journalistes de données ?, blog.actuvisu.fr, november 27th 2009, X [25].
 
Besides, some specific law peculiarities explain hesitant French behavior towards database journalism. First of all, raw data as such is not protected by the French equivalent of copyrights. However, a database can be protected if it attests to the creative, intellectual contribution of its author.
Secondly, when the creation of a database requires substantial human or financial investments, the producer acquires the same rights as the author of the database. This clause aims to protect the interests of the investors running the economic risk. Such protection guarantees the producer a monopoly over the operation of the database[+] Note For more details, read the very insightful summary written by Didier Frochot sur les-infostratèges.com and the étude de la jurisprudence by Bernard Lamon.X [26].
Finally, the opening of public data also deals with the issue of accessibility. We know that an increasing number of figures for public or private institutions are becoming available. However, the data is often scattered, poorly referenced, at times scanned as an image file. Such disorganization greatly complicates the data compiling process. Although the law of 17 July 1978 endows every French citizen with the right to obtain certain documents owned by a public institution, and a dedicated authority, the CADA (Commission d'Accès aux Documents Administratifs) enforces this right, no law exists forcing French institutions to disclose their data in a digital, well-ordered format[+] NoteRead online Nicolas Kayser-Bril's compelling article “On l’a pas en format ordinateur” X [27]
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Conclusion

Database journalism satisfies new needs expressed by the public: the need to access and understand complex information in the blink of an eye. Further needs have also been identified, such as the willingness to put the news into perspective through genuine interaction and customized researches.
Additionally, database journalism provides new tools to create information with an actual added value. When mastered, such tools allow for the investigation of complex databases, the collection of micro-local data through crowd-sourcing, and the invention of new paradigms of storytelling. It also fosters new communities of users.
In light of the amazing opportunities ahead, database journalism also brings about its share of challenges. First in line is the necessity for journalists, developers and graphic designers to work side by side. This new genre also requires the assimilation of advanced knowledge in visualization, statistics, interaction design and web design. Yet fascinatingly, data collecting remains a costly, time-consuming activity.
However, business perspectives appear to be encouraging. The success in terms of audience and the acknowledged content quality provides database journalism with potentially profitable markets.
 
Many elements lead us to the same conclusion: database journalism will continue to attract more and more people, for two main reasons.
First, the multiplication of valuable data sources is underway. We are at in the age of open data, and at the dawn of exciting breakthroughs such as the Semantic Web and the Internet of Objects.
Furthermore, the technologies used to make data talk are growing increasingly sophisticated, with the generalization of the mobile Internet, electronic readers and touchscreens, not to mention the upcoming augmented reality and html5.
Traditional media professionals, aggregators, Internet providers and search engines are all unfolding their plans, vying for supremacy in online information. In the midst of this unprecedented struggle, the business and editorial promises offered by database journalism are not to be overlooked. .
 

This mapping of the data visualization market in France classifies the players depending on the number or visualizations they design (horizontal axis) and the level of editorial work attached to them (vertical axis).
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The Data Deluge, economist.com, 25 February 2010.
C. TRICOT, Pourquoi utiliser des cartes, point de vue scientifique, blog.onomia.com, 12 May 2010.
N. VANBREMEERSCH, Pour un journalisme de données, slate.fr, 30 July 2009.
N. YAU, Rise of the Data Scientist, flowingdata.com, 4 June 2009, 
 
·         BOOKS AND JOURNALS
A. JOANNES, Communiquer en rich media: Structurer les contenus en optimisant textes, sons, images et liens, Paris, CFPJ Edition, 2009
R. KLANTEN, N. BOURQUIN, S. EHMANN, F. VAND HEERDEN, Data Flow: Visualizing information in graphic design, Die Gestalten Verlag, 2008
E. SCHERER, Context is king, AFP Mediawatch, Fall/Winter 2009/2010
E. TUFTE, The visual display of quantitative information, Graphics Press, 1992
 
·         BLOGS
N. YAU, Flowing Data, http://flowingdata.com
A. VAN DE MOERE, Information Aesthetics, http://infosthetics.com
B. WIEDERKEHR, C. SIEGRIST, J. STUCKI, P. GASSNER, Datavisualization.ch, http://datavisualization.ch/

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