How does data function on the content side? Jay Kirsch, digital media executive at Empirical Media, asked this of the audience at during the second day of fhe Big Data Media Conference, a joint venture of World Newsmedia Network (WNMN) and INMA.

While some people are diametrically opposed to the integration of data into the modern newsroom, others have begun to embrace this gradual data evolution.

From this paradigm development, a series of questions is posed: Where is the data? How do we use it? Is it even journalism?

In some cases of reporting, data is the content. In the case of weather, TV Guide, Fandango, Yelp, and others, it provides a simple information breakdown, Kirsch said.

This has been true since print media, and in the digital age, it has evolved. Now, things like Automated Insights and FiveThirtyEight are automated analysis tools, performing an evolved service of the traditional data reporting.  

Additionally, data has begun to inform what kind of content is created. It can be seen as the natural evolution from individual polls and research.

Now, there simply is so much data that is and can be collected and analysed, Kirsch said. From comments to polls, from observable viewing to reading habits, from school board voting history to real estate tax data, it can all be analysed to have distinct impacts. So, what does data do in the newsroom?

Kirsch broke down what it means to be an organisation that successfully uses data analysis.

  1. They embraced it as an “art.” Successful institutions embrace this allowed it to influence what they do. 

  2. They know how to look for it. They have the right tools to pull it out of hard to reach places, and add value to it. They have expanded the traditional data collection methods, and developed them for the modern era. 

  3. They utilise it as a tool for improving the user’s experience, enhancing their stay. While some may stay distinct opposition to the usage of data in the newsroom, those that have utilised the information available to them have become undeniably successful in a short time.

In a way, the only difference between previous data collection methods and its modern iterations is the time involved, according to Kirsch. Now, it is simply instantaneous. As customers can now give this information directly and the programmes that can process it have matured, it can be utilised far quicker, and in far larger quantity.