In the marketing and advertising field people are always emphasizing the importance of digital advertising and the power of social media. But what does this all mean? The data journalism handbook posits the idea that data visualization puts abstract data into a format that everyone can understand. This is true. However the shortfall of this data visualization could be that after seeing all of this data the viewer may still say, “What does this all mean?” Data is going to be understood by an audience if it comes in the form of visualization. The key is the format of the presentation. Is it easy to understand? Is it visually pleasing? Does it make the viewer want to keep scrolling? Shea Bennett’s Social Media Ad Spending: Trends and Statistics provides a lot of interest data. However, the long banner format that requires tons of scrolling and little explanation makes it less interesting and difficult to decipher.
The data visualization, titled Social Media Ad Spending: Trends and Statistics, definitely lays out very important data that can be very useful for people in social media branding and ad sales. The expected growth rate of mobile ad sales, the most desirable platforms for advertisers by ranked percentage, how many people engage with ads on Facebook; all of the aforementioned stats and trends are laid out for the reader.
Deciding when to use data visualization and how to use it is the conundrum that data journalists have been known to run into, which Simon Rogers alludes to. Additionally, he mentions that data visualizations are loved by readers. We live in a visual world, and images are important. We like to look at things and understand them through visuals, rather than read them and then imagine the visualization ourselves. This was a benefit to how Shea Bennett visualized the trends and stats of social media advertising. She uses smaller charts that break down individual details, such as “the most preferred social media platforms for advertisers”. On an individual basis, they are in an easy to understand format.
However, these individual stats and trends are laid out in a continuously scrolling banner, with each stat and trend leading into the next. There is little explanation about the significance or the potential outcome of these stats. The stats and trends are force fed to you in a never ending banner that is given no context beyond a brief explanation at the top. This formatting is problematic for the average viewer and for the industry viewer alike. The data is so continuous and without context that the format may be overwhelming and the viewer might not be tempted to scroll all the way through.
Knowing when and how to use data visualization in journalism is essential to its effectiveness. While data visualization in journalism is supposed to help people draw their own conclusions and understand abstract material in an easier way, the format of this particular data visualization does not foster those results. As the Data Journalism Handbook mentions, looking at raw data can be intimidating. This format in combination with the mass amount of information provided does not make it any less intimidating. The data provided was great, but overall the format could be a bore to the viewer after a couple of scrolls. The full data visualization is below, go ahead and scroll after you’ve finished reading this entire post. Then, ask yourself if you would actually scroll all the way through if you had found this organically.