Warning: ABC News May (Not) Contain Graphic Material

30 10 2011

With the average web news story being accompanied by audio, video, links, likes and follows, it can almost be difficult to know where to look or click first.  Add in adverts, comments and graphics, and a web editor can have a tough job trying to ensure the story is told and presented in the best way.  ABC News’ website contains many of the features mentioned above.  However, their use of data visualization through graphics is scarce.

I would suggest the reason behind this may be that ABC News is focussed on television news and subsequently they concentrate on graphics for use on television which may not transfer onto the web.  There are other ways interactivity through data visualization can be produced – like maps or charts – but ABC rarely seem to use these either.  The main thing they use to accompany their stories are videos of the news stories themselves.

I attempted to find any sort of interesting uses of data on the site but only managed to come across a few extremely basic examples.  Two of them were just charts used to break down statistics – one of the number of female troop deaths from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the other of results from a poll about retirement homes.  The other graphic used was of a map showing sorority attacks in Dallas.  All three of these examples were actually from stories written by Associated Press so it is likely the graphics were produced by them as well.  As they were all so basic they didn’t really add any value to the stories.

I don’t think ABC News suffers from not producing much in the way of graphics, mainly as they use video footage to accompany so many of their stories.  I suppose it would be beneficial to have the odd graphic to help explain a more complex topic but then if they are not committed to producing a lot of high quality graphical content, it is better not to throw in a few poor quality ones just for the sake of it.  Also, users have the opportunity to interact with the site in so many other ways there is again the danger of information overload.

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7 responses

30 10 2011
ysalimi

I agree with your points in this post. I think interactive tools can be beneficial but sometimes they do become overwhelming, causing an information overload.

31 10 2011
suzannamccloskey

Because ABC is so television-intensive, the organization seems to replicate their graphics from TV to the internet. While this usually works, I agree it would be beneficial if ABC tailored graphics specific to the articles when applicable. No one likes looking at a huge chart of data when a graphic could have conveyed the information in a more elegant way.

31 10 2011
emeewes

It seems as if ABC and CBS are working together. The news agencies mimic each other in terms of misuse of technology. That’s not to say that there aren’t things done well–or correctly. Throughout both of our blogs we have mentioned what the two organizations aren’t doing. What single thing, so far, do you think they are missing the most? (E.g., use of social media, infographics, etc.)

31 10 2011
gfisken

To be honest the thing I think they both miss the most is a bit more structure on their home page. I still find it a nightmare to find things, particularly on ABC. Apart from the main story there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of hierarchy of content, everything just seems thrown together and you’re left to fend for yourself.

31 10 2011
jthomp72

I am in total agreement with you. I think not having the graphics is better than having shoddy ones by a long shot. I think something to keep in mind is that organizations like yours are mostly geared towards their broadcast sides and less towards their online component than say CNN or BBC News. I think in terms of budget this means they don’t have the funds to produce wow factor quality stuff.

31 10 2011
rwilli94

I don’t think video is a good substitute for a good clear graph, but I do find it interesting that ABC shies away from graphics so much. CNN does this too. I’m not sure what exactly their reasons are for not using infographics, but I suppose they’ve found a method that works for what they want.

31 10 2011
krystynabarnard

I think this is a great analysis of ABC News and their use of data visualization, especially by pointing out their focus on television news. While this type of data can sometimes be beneficial to a story, I’d rather see a visual that’s more in-depth and complex that provides the audience with additional information than something that can be easily understood by just reading the news story. Like with every news story, it also needs to be relevant. If data visualization is not going to add something to the story, or provide the audience with more information, it shouldn’t be included just so they news organization can say they did it.

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