SEO tips

Content is uploaded on Internet every second, but unfortunately much of it goes unseen.

You might be asking: “what’s the problem?” But the solution is quite simple; everything relies on the SEO (Social Engine Optimization) and social strategy.

SEO is the visibility of content in search engines. The higher an article is ranked within a search result list, the more visits it’s likely to have.

By making your content SEO and social friendly, it will increase the accessibility to your site and boost your content to your readers.

And this goes hand in hand with SMO (Social Media Optimization), which relies on optimizing a site and its content for social. Why is SMO important you might be asking? It’s all about headlines. What works for a search engine, doesn’t works for a social media platform.

While good SEO is subjective, here we offer our tips to make SEO friendly content:

1.Everything is about audience

Target your audience and think of the content that they would read. Try to ask yourself: “what do I want to read?”


Brainstorm possible keywords and make sure you include them in the headline and in the body of the article.

Keywords and phrases in your web content make it possible for people to find your article via search engines and help connect searchers to your site.

Think about how you would search for an article and use those keywords.

3.Keep the web connected with internal links

Consider adding links to your article. Linking internally is a good way to promote your other work. While, adding external links to related sites helps the search engines understand your niche, and increases the trust and quality of your site.

For some inspiration on internal and external links, take a look at this Islington Now article. In this case, the internal link is related to an article about Jeremy Corbyn. The externals links are connected to Archway market and Camden Passage websites.

4.What else works better than a catchy headline?

The headline has to act like a magnet. Haunting headlines help to get reader’s attention and improve clickability.

For example, if you are writing an article on places to go to celebrate Father’s Day, you could write: “Places to go for this Father’s Day.”

Although you are using the keyword “Father’s Day”, your readers would not be much attracted by the headline.

What about opening with a question? Remember that Internet and social media platforms are about engaging and creating communications.

And what if you add a number and solution by saying: “take a look at our 5 ideas.” By doing this, you are proving your audience that you know how to keep them happy. Also, your readers will feel more predisposed to read your piece, as they will expect an easy and organised reading.

You could end by saying “like no other”. By using ‘like’ you are not only demonstrating the credibility of your article, but also you are bringing in emotions, by saying that it’s going to be an endearing day.

Your final heading could be: “Looking for places to go for this Father’s Day? Stop worrying and take a look at our 5 ideas to have a day like any other.”

For more inspiration on headlines that work well on social media platforms take a look at Quartz.

 5. /remember-to-shape-your-HTML/

The HTML title is the information that creates a website.

Although HTML codes don’t have to match with the heading of the article, is recommended to do so. Google prioritizes the words displayed in the HTML title and your article can benefit from it.

It’s not needed to create a sentence for your HTML code. Our recommendation is, again, to use keywords and list them in a clear and structured way.

For instance if you are writing an article on places to go to celebrate Father’s Day, the HTML could be something like: “5- best-places-to-go-for-fathers-day-for-a-day-like-no-other.html”

6.Visual, visual and visual

Videos and photos are a must.

Think of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat or Vimeo. They all reward pictures and videos.

Or, you have ever seen an article without an image or video?

 7. Not without my hashtag

Less is more when it comes to hashtags, so keep it simple and don’t overuse them. Use between one to three hashtags on your posts to positively impact your SMO. This will help you to engage more easily with your readers.

A useful tip is to use them wisely. For instance, keywords used in the headline and body of the article could be also used as hashtags, because these words are more likely to be searched.

8. Is anyone out there?

Think of online communities that might be interested in your article and try to engage with them. By doing this, you will not only have the opportunity of gaining new readers and increasing your online community, but also improving your SMO.

For example if you are writing an article on the benefits of being vegetarian, you could look for vegetarian groups on Facebook and Twitter and send them your story.


What are you waiting for? Start brainstorming and follow our guide. Within days, your followers would have doubled!     


What to keep in mind with Facebook video

Facebook can be a very valuable tool for traffic for many websites, and mastering an online presence on the social platform is often the difference between life and death of a publication.

Recently, Facebook’s algorithm has been modified to promote visual content, such as pictures and videos, over plain text posts.

Data published last November seems to be showing they are on the right track, with close to 8 billion video views per day.

While Youtube remains the uncontested leader in raw video content, it would be a grave mistake to ignore the rapid growth in Facebook videos.

Here are the interhacktives top tips to keep in mind when doing your Facebook video.

Grab their attention

You are fighting against the ever-shortening attention span of the viewer. If you don’t grab your audience in the very first seconds of your video, they simply go elsewhere.

Most of the time viewers will be scrolling through their feed and your video will automatically start playing when they go over it, that leaves you with about three seconds to convince them to stop and stare.

In this video by The Guardian, the viewer is instantly intrigued by this atypical question and answer. It stays no longer than three seconds and does its job well.

Keep it compact

This is in the same vein as our previous tip. The longer the video, the less likely he/she will finish it. Try to aim for something close to a minute or two, any more and you risk boring the viewer.

This video by the BBC has 10 million views at the time of publishing of this article, and it is only 50 seconds long.

Don’t forget visual stimuli

A trap publications might fall into is to treat a Facebook video like a segment in a broadcasting channel. You should not be simply staring at the camera and talking, other channels are better suited for this type of content Facebook videos are not.

If your video makes sense and the viewer can understand what it is about even with the sound turned off, then you are on the right track.

This video by NowThis has no natural sound, yet you can understand what the story and who the major players are just by reading the text. This technique is called a Nut Graf over B-Roll, where you simply take the nut graf of the story and put it over some video sequence.


Adapt your content

Not everything should be made for online video, but a bit of time and effort can turn even dry content into something that can work.

In this video, CNBC only had shots of Mark Cuban talking, but with the clever use of editing and adding text they managed to turn dry content into something you could watch on Facebook.




Are analytics changing newsrooms? Interview with Federica Cherubini

analytics and newsroom

and Esmeralda Sandoval

Analytics are some of the most effective tools publishers have for distributing stories. Yet, implementing analytics and tailoring them to an organizations specific needs has proved challenging for many news rooms.

We spoke to Federica Cherubini, a media consultant and editorial researcher who worked for the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) in Paris.


Together with Rasmus Kleis Nielsen she authored the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism’s reportEditorial analytics: How news media are developing and using audience data and metrics.

Cherubini, and her co-authors, conducted 30 interviews across eight countries to uncover how newsrooms are working with analytics. 

How can work in a newsroom be affected by the use of metrics and analytics?

Nowadays, tools and ways to get data information are common in a newsroom. It is very typical to see a big screen with real time traffic in a newsroom. What publishers are now trying to develop are best practices to try to use analytics, not just in the distribution process after an article has been pushed out on different platforms, but also to perform and produce better journalism.

Which examples of best practices did you find out during your research?

We defined best practice as those who use editorial analytics instead of generic and rudimental use of analytics, that means analytics are tailored to each news organization and the newsrooms decide what they want to look at.

Currently some of the most popular metrics are: time spent on a page, the number of shares, retweets,  and comments to see how the users interact with the content.

If you produce a piece of content where do you want to publish it? Is it a piece suitable for Facebook or other platforms? The problem that many newsrooms have with analytics is that they look at data as just numbers which don’t mean very much. The newsrooms that use best practices are those that give numbers a context.

Will analytics change editorial decisions?

No, because if a journalist or editor decides to write on a topic that is important to write about, they will. The main thing is that data will never replace your own judgment, data only helps you be more effective.

Chris Moran, audience editor at the Guardian, always says that it is important to decide when you can publish your article. How you change your publishing schedule still reflects a print mind-set, you can use the data to inform that decision and be more effective.


Are there any weaknesses in what newsrooms are doing with analytics?

Many newsrooms are a bit generic and basic. They gather the data, they share the data, maybe the journalist gets an email everyday with their performances of the day before, but that’s it. So one weakness is not really trying to turn it into actionable insight.

Another weakness is not just for the newsroom, but it is very difficult to track data across devices or across platforms.  So is a share on Facebook the same as a Tweet? Does it have the same impact or value? So trying to understand how the data in different mediums translate to different platforms.

Where do you think we are going now in terms of data and analytics, all this stuff that is new for old school style journalists?

I think newsrooms are getting more sophisticated. But they need to understand that one approach doesn’t exist. There is no one set of tricks you just learn and you’re done.

I really think it should be focused and tailored on each news organization. Otherwise its tricks to improve the headlines and getting more reach. Pure reach, irresponsible reach, doesn’t get you anywhere, doesn’t mean that the reader is going to come back.

Reach, or being big, isn’t enough anymore. The next question is about how you turn your audience into a loyal audience.

And metrics taps into that in helping you have a bit more information and to test hypothesis in the newsroom.  You can experiment go back and look at the data and see if it worked. If it didn’t you can change your approach the next day.


Federica Cherubini currently works with WAN-IFRA on engagement strategies and editorial conference planning.


Data Journalism Awards past winner focus: The Migrant Files

migrant files nicolas kayser bril

The Data Journalism Awards organised by the Global Editor’s Network (GEN) showcase some of the best data journalism every year. Here we take a look at past winners in anticipation for this year’s awards.

In August 2013, Nicolas Kayser Bril, a French data journalist and CEO of Journalism ++, started The Migrant Files project along with 15 other European journalists in order to document the rising migrant death toll at the gates of Europe. The project was a response to the lack of official monitoring of migrant deaths on their journey west to safety.

“We started building our database based on information from NGOs that had done a terrific amount of work on the topic already,” said Kayser-Bril.

So the team extracted and aggregated data from open sources to build the database that would allow them to track each of the migrants dying everyday around Europe and the coast of Africa.

The data is visualised on a bubble map that indicates the number of dead migrants in Europe and Africa. The user gets information on the number of refugees and migrants that died between 2000 and 2015 by clicking on a specific spot in the map.

A detailed explanation of the project can be found on the same website under the article “counting the dead.” The team still updates the information and has since written another article on the amount of money the European Union spends to keep migrants out.

Kayser-Bril said that the map was still being updated to this day and that he and his team will not stop until international organisations like the UNHCR start doing the work themselves.

The jury described the project as an “excellent example of journalists intervening to put a largely neglected issue on the political agenda […] this is data journalism at its best. We need more projects like these.”

Kayser-Bril said it was a nice feeling to have the project recognised by peers.

And as for the data journalist awards? “They’re a great opportunity to review what has been done in a given year.”

Currently, Kayser-Bril is working on several cross-border investigations where “we follow the same goal of measuring the unmeasured.” One of them is The Football Tax, which measures the flows of public money spent on professional football. The other project is Rentwatch, which measures the prices of rent everywhere in Europe.

If you are a data journalist who wants to submit a project, the submission deadline is 10 April 2016. This year’s ceremony will take place at Vienna City Hall on 16 June.

Interhacktives is proud media partner of the DJAs.





Anti-churnalism prototype wins BBC News Labs’ City University Hackathon

BBC City Hack judges, BBC News Labs officials and members of The Neutrons team that won the challenge.

A prototype of a tool that seeks to detect biased reporting of scientific research has emerged tops at the first City University London Hackathon.

The aim of the model, christened Neutron, is to help detect “churnalism”— reproduction of press releases sent to newsrooms by scientists and research institutions.

“Neutron will help to detect this problem by inserting a quote from a news article and searching other articles in which it appears,” said Katah Karáth, a member of The Neutrons team.

“With another software BBC News Labs is building, we can extract the names and, with data visualisation, we can see the connection between the researcher and other people quoted in the articles.”

The goal, she said, is to stop a trend where a small clique of scientists is being quoted by news organisations all the time, some on their own researches, which results in poor quality science journalism.



If developed, the tool would also help measure how much researchers are quoted on their own work and how they are related to other sources in articles.

“With the names of researchers and institutions, we can geocode them and map their influence on scientific news coverage in a given region,” said Karáth, MA Science Journalism student at City.



The other two ideas at the two-day challenge were making of a news tracking tool by Trend Setters and use of social networks to find sources by Hack Athenas.                          

Judges at the event said while the other two projects had interesting features and focused on issues affecting journalism industry, the Neutron stood out.

“Team Neutron identified a genuine problem in the industry and had potential a solution for it,” said Rob Mackenzie, editorial leader at BBC News Labs.        



“Their idea was the most practical and most ‘buildable’”. 

The other judges were City University’s Nail Maiden, professor of digital creativity, and Jonathan Hewett, director of newspaper and interactive journalism MA.      

Mackenzie said the winners would pitch their idea to Labs Central and if found viable, a working prototype would be built.



Organised by BBC News Labs & Connected Studio in collaboration with City, the hack brought together 16 participants from City’s Journalism and Computer Science programmes.

Their task, cording to BBC News Labs data scientist Sylvia Tippmann, was to build a tool that would help journalists dive deeper into topics and do meta-analysis on news articles.

The student journalists and computer scientists were required to come up with different front-ends for the Juicer— the BBC’s experimental news aggregation tool.

The BBC News Labs’ University Challenges seeks to engage the talents of student innovators and help universities use their collaborative potential to build innovative news tools.

BBC News Labs City University Challenge: Day 1

We joined BBC News Labs University Challenge for its first day.

After a good breakfast, Neil Maiden, Sylvia Tippmann, Lei He, Basile Simon and Francesco Negri from BBC News Labs gave a briefing and organised us into three teams.

In groups of three to five journalists, data scientists, and programmers, we brainstormed ideas for a tool that would help journalists use stories from the BBC’s Juicer for their research.

After lunch, we pitched our initial ideas, which included:

A project related to a science press release

smartphone app on ‘What’s going to be trending?’

And a tool that helps journalists to filter infomation provided by the Juicer.

Then the real challenge began. Each team had to sketch a prototype of their idea to present to the BBC News Labs team again.

The project to improve the quality of  science journalism checking improving the quality of the sources preventing the sensationalism. 

The ‘trend setter’, that helps journalists track developing stories with a view of spotting those that are likely to make big news in the near future..

A tool for finding links and connections between journalists personal social network and person of interest:

We produced a lot of good stuff in the first day of the competition. Day two of the contest for the best invention continues today.

So stay tuned.

City hosts BBC News Labs’ University Challenges

City Hacks

The first City University London Hackathon will take place this weekend as part of the BBC News Labs’ University Challenges.

Organised by BBC News Labs & Connected Studio in collaboration with City, the event brings together 23 participants from the university’s Journalism and Computer Science programmes.

The goal, according to BBC News Labs data scientist Sylvia Tippmann, is to build a tool that will help journalists dive deeper into topics and do meta-analysis on news articles.

She said the task for the student journalists and computer scientists will be to come up with different front-ends for the Juicer— the BBC’s experimental news aggregation tool.

“The challenge will be to find novel and interesting ways to present the data that grows by 15,000 articles a day at the moment,” Tippmann explained.

Working in groups of four to five, Tippmann said, the participants will be required to “build something”— a prototype that works.

“If your project is convincing, we would love to invite you to work with us in News Labs for a while to make it happen and move your prototype to a beautiful and fully functional tool for journalists.”

Director of City’s Newspaper and Interactive Journalism MA Jonathan Hewett described the event as a “happy convergence,” adding that City was excited to play host.

Journalism and technology, Hewett said, are increasingly converging and the hackathon would help journalism students learn how to collaborate with coders and programmers in news projects.

“A project can progress much more quickly when both the journalist and computer scientist know what is possible and what is needed rather than having a dialogue where the journalist is a few steps behind,” he said.

The BBC News Labs’ University Challenges seeks to engage the talents of student innovators and help universities use their collaborative potential to build innovative news tools.

You can follow the event @Interhacktives and #BBCityHack.

Why you should apply to the Data Journalism Awards 2016

Data Journalism Awards

Are you a journalist with a data-driven project you are proud of?

Apply to the Data Journalism Awards (DJAs) 2016 now

The Data Journalism Awards are the biggest competition to reward the world’s best data journalism. Submission is open until 10 April 2016.

Interhacktives is a proud media partner of the DJAs. We’ll be publishing interviews, advice and showcasing past winners until the 12 prizes – worth €1000 each – are announced on 16 June.

Organised by the Global Editors’ Network (GEN), the awards are sponsored by The Knight Foundation and Google News Lab. Google’s data editor Simon Rogers is directing them.

ProPublica’s executive chairman Paul E. Steiger is president of the illustrious jury of 18, which includes The Guardian’s digital editor Aron Pilhofer; Cronkite School of Journalism Professor Steve Doig; The Economist’s data editor Kenneth Cukier and Condé Nast International’s Chief Digital Officer Wolfgang Blau, among others.

The panel’s goal this year is “to expand the number of entries”, especially from Asia, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe, says Steiger.

“We saw lots of great work last year –  the best ever – but we know there was excellent data journalism that wasn’t entered.”

The entries that stand out for Rogers generally work on all formats, from mobile to desktop; are transparent with their data; and blend data with new technology in an innovative way.

“There’s so much technological innovation going on right now, wouldn’t it be great if we could see more data journalism using these methods?”

Data journalists from organisations of all sizes should apply, he says. Start-ups and small newsrooms are sometimes “best placed to try out new things”.

“It’s a great surprise to see websites not known for data journalism really producing great work.”

See GEN’s interview with Simon Rogers and Paul Steiger for more of their advice on entering.

Shortlisted applicants will receive a free invite to the two-day GEN Summit in Vienna in June, during which the prizes will be awarded in a ceremony at Vienna City Hall on 16 June.

Apply now!

Megan Lucero interview: ‘all journalism will eventually be data journalism’

Hailing from a tiny Californian town, where the main mode of transport takes the literal measurement of horse power, Megan Lucero is quite the outlier. The energetic 27-year-old  who was remarkably promoted from intern to data editor at The Times and The Sunday Times in just four years  would certainly stand out if you found her in a spreadsheet. At their shimmering Thames-side offices, Lucero talked to Peter Yeung about the importance of open data, the inherent plurality in data teams, and how her paper was the only one to correctly reject the polling data about the UK’s 2015 General Election.

Can you talk about your rise through the ranks at The Times?

I was interning for a week on the foreign desk, and I was just finishing up my MA in International Journalism at City University. It was my first time in a massive newsroom, which is funny to look back on now. Towards the end of that, I started taking a lot more on for the desk, and suggesting a lot more we could be doing digitally. I was very fortunate that at the time Richard Beeston  who unfortunately passed away a couple of years ago  was very on board with this and gave me a lot of free reign to do that. But at the end of that, they were cutting researchers and my job came up for the axe. I went up to the editor and deputy editor at the time, James Harding and Keith Blackmore, and I pitched a job to them, which we later called a “story producer”. I invented the job and they said: “Let’s see what you can do”. It was a one-woman show for a year. I taught myself a bit of coding, built some interactives, I started our first Soundcloud account doing podcasts, I was running live-blogs and finding stories online. But another review came up. They asked me to apply as a data journalist, and at the time I didn’t feel qualified by any means. But once I took on the role, I wanted to own what data journalism meant, so I just started teaching myself. I was trying to learn as fast as I possibly could because I saw this as a massive opportunity  the future of journalism. After a while, I basically running the team, so I became data editor.

What role will data journalism play in future newsrooms?

One day data journalism won’t be data journalism  it’s just going to be journalism. This sexy term that everybody throws around will disappear. Every single journalist should and will be digging into all of the digitisation and data around their beat, finding their own exclusives. I think there will always be a specialised team that will need to help with really advanced machine learning, perhaps algorithms that look at modelling, but I really think that data journalism as we know it now won’t exist.

Do you ever need to convince others about the value of data journalism?

I’ve worked pretty hard to make sure that other journalists understand the value of it. We had a front page exclusive out about charities’ expenses recently, and every journalist knew exactly that the story was a combination of a data journalism approach and an investigative approach. Everyone recognises the value of data, but it’s a matter of whether they’d be equipped to do it themselves. Sure, there is a gap with what other journalists can currently do, but they still recognise that data is important and valuable.

Does the paywall affect The Times‘ approach to data journalism?

If there was a paywall, or there wasn’t, we would be approaching it as we do. If anything, there’s much more of an argument for what we do at The Times, because our business model is that we produce news worth paying for. You’re trying to give your audience and your reader something exclusive, something they can’t get anywhere else, something that is worth subscriptions. A lot of people are willing to pay to support foreign correspondents around the world, advanced sports coverage, access to premiere clips. And I think that there’s a value in someone who’s looking out for accountability in public interest reporting, by advancing data manipulation and data analysis. I think every journalist should be thinking about how they can tell the full picture, looking at all of the information available. If you shut the door on data journalism, or limit yourself on how to access data, you’re really limiting the depth of what your story can tell.

Are there ever clashes between the editorial stances of a paper and what the data says?

I think your question doesn’t even necessarily need to apply to journalism. If you look at academics, if you look at anyone who analyses data, they can tell you that it’s possible to torture a data set to tell you whatever you want it to say. You’ll read one study that says drinking red wine helps you, you’ll read another that says it will kill you. This is because people twist numbers and they will twist it to tell you want they want. But I think we’ve never been pressured to deliver a certain angle, or to intentionally twist the data.The great thing about having a data team is that you’re not relying solely on a single individual  a team requires, for us, a peer review. Each of us check each other’s processes, we really do make a moral and ethical decision whenever we’re looking at it. We try to be open and challenge each other if we find ourselves if we going down a certain angle, or not doing something as robust as it should be. The classic example is how we treated the 2015 General Election  we rejected the polling data that was in front of us  no other paper did that. It wasn’t robust, the margins were too wide, the data was skewed. That couldn’t have happened if it was just individual people going after a story.

What is more valuable, open data or freedom of information?

If there was truly open data, you wouldn’t need FOIs. If truly every government body and every organisation that is public, opened their data, you wouldn’t need to do that to begin with. The fact that FOI is under threat is a travesty, and it’s absolutely unacceptable, because this is an affront to a public service. This is a right being taken away from citizens. But if you look at the source of the problem, it is that the data isn’t open. It’s the fact that public information should be easily accessible and it should be able to be accessed. My argument would be that open data is more important, because it is the bigger picture that encompasses FOI issues. But, of course, I wouldn’t say that FOI doesn’t matter  it matters a lot. It was created because of the lack of transparency and the lack of openness. But hopefully we can get to a space where that won’t really be necessary.

Is it difficult working for both The Times and The Sunday Times, which are competing papers?

We’re the only editorial team that does this. There’s no one else who has a data team that works across two titles. It’s kind of like contracting, in that sense, but it doesn’t feel like that here, it definitely feels like two separate titles. We’re quite lucky that there’s very different focusses on what we do for each title  what we can bring to them. But at times, there’s obviously data that both titles will want, and it would be quite silly to replicate our work. But I think we’ve been finding a good balance in how we share that. Luckily, the way that data journalism works across the board is that it’s quite an open space and an open community  The Guardian, The FT  I know the editorial teams across the board here. Most of all try to open up our data. If I did something for The Times, it would be quite natural for us to open up our FOI requests and the data on that story. That’s what is quite unique about the data community. But it is challenging.

What do you want The Times data team be known for?

I’d love to expand my team even more as I get more resources, and as that’s allocated to us. Basically: I want our team to continually be breaking really great stories, and we want to be doing it in a way in which you couldn’t be doing without computing. Our team is really is brought in to be an investigative team, and we find our best use is when we are doing advanced algorithms, machine learning, modelling  when we’re handling big data, doing things that a human really couldn’t do without computing. That what I want to be known for. We’re still kind of working in an area in which we’re doing some journalism that other journalists could do, so I’d like it to really move further along that line. Doping is one of the biggest examples, but obviously we’ve done a lot of stuff on charity finances, on footballers’ accounts. I’d like to continue that, and I’d like us to get more into visualisation  our team doesn’t do enough due to resources  and I want to focus on stories. But also I’d like to help contribute to the data community and to this paper about creating those journalists that are empowered to be data journalists themselves.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

19 ways to find great data: tips from leading light Marianne Bouchart

Queen of data Marianne Bouchart shared her top data portals – and a few tricks – at this month’s news:rewired conference.

Bouchart is Communications Director and Data Journalism Awards Manager at the Global Editors’ Network. She founded, a not-for-profit specialising in data-driven projects and storytelling – check out their Data Journalism Blog. She also spent three years at Bloomberg as data journalism and graphics editor.

And she’s a former organiser of our favourite London schmoozer, Hacks/ Hackers!

Once you’ve found your data and told your fabulous story, you must enter it for the Data Journalism Awards 2015, urges Bouchart. Submissions open 17th December. And don’t forget who helped you find that data…

  • is a comprehensive list of open data portals from around the world.
  • is the UK government’s portal, releasing open data “to help people understand how government works and how policies are made”, says Bouchart.
  • is the US counterpart to Note a similar government-run open portal exists in many other countries, too.
  • Open Corporates is the largest global open data base of companies. It aims to eventually list a URL for every company in the world.
  • WikiLeaks is still regularly updated and an “exceptional resource”, says Bouchart.
  • The World Bank’s portal releases free and open data about development across the world.
  • lets you ask other users in their forum where to find data.
  • aggregates FOI requests and responses, so you can check if the data you want has already been released.
  • Google search results, simply by using the following search operators:
    • Filetype:CSV and filetype:XLS for Excel spreadsheets
    • Filetype:shp for geo data
    • Filetype: MDB, filetype: SQL, filetype:DB for database extracts
    • You can even look for filetype:pdf
    • ‘inurl:downloads filetype:xls
  • Scrape data from an HTML spreadsheet into Google sheets with the formula =importHTML(“”,”table”,N)

Now clean your data!

Learn how to use Open Refine (formerly Google Refine) with this 7 minute tutorial from

Still unsure how to find a story from your new, clean dataset? From Idea to Story: Planning the Data Journalism Story will inspire you, says Bouchart.

Good luck – and see you at the Data Journalism Awards 2015!

PHOTO: Marianne Bouchart

Lunch with the IHT: John Burn-Murdoch

Financial Times data journalist John Burn-Murdoch

At the tender age of 27, John Burn-Murdoch is one of the leading young lights of data journalism in the UK. His brief career to date has already taken in The Guardian, The Telegraph, Which? Magazine, and The Financial Times, where he’s been working in a coveted data journalist role since 2013. Raised in Yorkshire, Burn-Murdoch also channels his passion for spreadsheets and statistics as a visiting lecturer at London’s City University, sculpting the next generation of data enthusiasts. On a crisp December afternoon at Borough Market, he talked to Peter Yeung about the issue of objectivity in data, the risk of cronyism in the data journalism community, and how the FT are unique.

How does the FT differ from other publications?

I would say our newsroom is more numerate than most. That’s not to say everyone has a maths degree, but we have some people that have previously worked as analysts in banks, for example. That means a lot of the day to day data journalism, the quick-fire stuff, is handled by the reporters without them even thinking about it. You could say that a lot of the numerate data journalism that comes out of the FT won’t even come past our desk  it just happens. That means that those of us on the data, stats and interactive teams are afforded a bit more time to dig deeper into things. We might have more of a week-scale publication schedule, with some quicker articles in between. Whereas places like The Guardian publish two or three pieces on the data blog on any given day. There are different ways of doing things, but most of it for us is having the capacity to take a little bit more time.

How did you get into data journalism?

I never really thought about journalism until the third year of my undergraduate geography degree. I was a bit disillusioned with the course, and needed to do something extra-curricular. I started working on the student paper and really enjoyed it. I didn’t even know data journalism was a thing then. My first taste of professional journalism was doing some work experience at The Guardian during the London riots, because they were suddenly looking for lots of people to come in and do some research. That was inherently data-related work. Then I started a Master’s in Data Science [the first in the UK] at Dundee University, but I only did the first term of that because it was impossible to fit in, since I was working full time. It was distance learning, but there was also a four week period of intense sessions in Dundee. I absolutely loved it, but it proved too much of a struggle with time.

Why are you a lecturer at City University?

I’d say for two reasons. Number one, as trite as it sounds: giving something back. When I was studying at City, James Ball was lecturing at the same time as being a data journalist at The Guardian. And with something like data journalism, which is quite a rapidly evolving field, often it’s better to have someone who’s actively involved in the field teaching it. City got in touch, and there weren’t many data journalists in London to be honest, and I was obviously one of the one’s they knew, and it sort of ran from there. The other bonus for me is that it keeps my own skill sets ticking over. I kind of feel like everyone wins.

The data journalism community is quite tight-knit. What are the advantages and drawbacks?

I think it’s mainly an advantage. There are obvious drawbacks in terms of cronyism and when people are interviewed for jobs there’s always a temptation to hire the people that are familiar. But I think there are big advantages in terms of collaboration: digital journalism as a whole, and especially it seems anything where data analysis and web development are involved, seems to be inherently very collaborative. The whole concept of open source is about riffing on other people’s work, taking something someone else has done and adding to it. That collaborative spirit is a massive help. Without it, we wouldn’t move along as quickly. But as a counterpoint to the cronyism, because of the skill sets now required we are now seeing a lot of people from outside of that bubble. If anything, data journalism is less cronyistic than journalism as a whole.

With its history in computer-assisted reporting, data journalism has tended to be focussed on investigations. But should there be more quick, reactive data journalism?

There are obviously lots of cases where you can do good quality data journalism very quickly. Alberto Nardelli is one of the best at using a quantitative mindset and skill set, but with the breaking news agenda. But, having said that, I think inherently the best data journalism, if you judge it in terms of the level of analysis, and the ability to find a news line that other people don’t have, takes time. Quick-reaction pieces can only be done if you spend a hell of a lot of time familiarising yourself with your beat, and building up your data sources. It’s definitely possible, but to be knocking out really top level data journalism multiple times a week is really difficult.
The Financial Times' London office
The Financial Times office in London (Image: FT)

Is data journalism more objective than other forms of journalism?

Like those that have answered it before me, and probably much better, I would say it’s not necessarily more objective. It certainly can be. Data journalism can be more objective than vox pop journalism, purely because of things like sample sizes. When you’re trying to extrapolate and talk about national or global trends, you can be more objective. But there are issues with data quality, and issues because your starting point is always a question you want to answer. There are few journalists of any type who start with a completely naive position. Some people might have an agenda even though it’s a completely unconscious one. It’s very difficult to go in completely blind.

How do you establish the line between pushing an agenda and finding a story?

The obvious one is talking to people in the know, especially those who you think might disagree with you. If you set out to ask a question of a data set and you go to an expert who has already written extensively with the same angle as you, it won’t help much. Even before that, you can do your own tests by interpreting the data in different ways, making sure there aren’t any other counter-explanations in there.

Who is doing the most interesting data journalism right now?

That’s a really tough question. Obviously, the FT. No, no: all sorts of places. There are some obvious ones such as the New York Times, which does pure data journalism and visual journalism, constantly raising the bar and doing fantastic stuff. Berlin Morgenpost won the Information is Beautiful Award for being the best data visualisation team, and they do some amazing stuff. Pro Publica, with their data-driven investigations, do incredible work. Bloomberg have been doing some amazing visual work recently and the same goes for the Wall Street Journal. The good thing is that I’m having to think a lot harder than I would say five years ago, when I could have reeled off two or three and there wasn’t anyone else.

If you could lead your own data team, what would it be like?

I’ve never actually thought about that, it probably speaks to a lack of ambition. Personally, I like the idea of a team of specialist-generalists, so people whose skill is both technically and in terms of subject matter having interests and skills in all areas. Kind of like it is at the FT now – one week we are working on climate change, the next it’s Boko Haram terror attacks, then maybe it’s something about the global oil trade, and then something on tennis. You want everyone to have a base level of technical experience, but it’s always nice when people are pulling in their own directions to a certain extent. For me the team would be two-thirds coming up with ideas generated internally, and the other third doing amazing collaborations with other parts of the news room. Very roughly speaking, that’s what I’d look for.


This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Five Things We Learned from Hacks Hackers

Yesterday the #Interhacktives went to the November meet-up of Hacks Hackers.

We heard a number of fascinating and inspiring speakers and here are the five things we took away from the evening!

1. News reporting is changing: from traditional ‘patches’ to ‘issues’

The Buzzfeed UK editor in chief Janine Gibson explained how Buzzfeed approached news by treating stories as issues rather than patches.

Normal newspapers beats are split up into how the government splits in departments.

However Buzzfeed, she said, took a broader ‘issues’ based approach: ‘the biggest stories cross beats.’

2. Social media reporting is still an evolving art and experimentation is a good thing!

Mukul Devichand founder and editor of BBC trending told the audience how social media brings the journalist closer to their audience – it’s more ‘peer to peer’ ‘

‘We’ve done things where we were practically naked.’

In contrast Devichand said old-style journalists don’t understand this.

So when you’re tweeting, spreading memes and reporting on social media trends remember – experiment lots – there is no definite style and the rules and expectations change depending on the storyteller

3. News orgs see potential in Snapchat for revenue and innovative storytelling.

Blathnaid Healy, UK editor of Mashable said she thought Snapchat worked very well covering live events like the world cup, press conferences or interviews with celebrities.

4. Millenial journalists have no idea how phones work…

At Buzzfeed, Gibson revealed, the younger journalists react with stupefaction when the office phone rings. She says she has to teach them how to use it… PhoneTo be honest, we have no idea what this is either. 

5. Finally, as much as Buzzfeed talks about serious news journalism, you still can’t escape pictures of cats…


Hacks/Hackers live blog

Stay tuned for this months hot Hacks/Hackers event. It features Janine Gibson (@janinegibson) editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed UK, Mukul Devichand (@MukulDevichand) creator and editor of BBC Trending and Blathnaid Healy (@blathnaidhealy) UK Editor @mashable.

Frank Turner interview: ‘Freedom of Information shouldn’t be restricted’

Frank Turner, folk rock singer-songwriter, talks to Interhacktives about data journalism, power and taxes.

What do you think of the new commission on Freedom of Information?

It’s bullshit. The concept of democratic government is that it’s a servant of the people it represents. I pay my taxes and frankly if someone’s fucking around with my money, I demand the right to know exactly how and why they’re doing that, and if it’s inconvenient for them that is tough shit.

I don’t think [convenience] is a factor in the debate whatsoever. I’m extremely bothered by the idea of people trying to restrict freedom of information for the idea of convenience. Convenience is the weasely mother of all forms of authoritarianism.

Both data journalism and music critique power. Could they be doing more to support each other in this goal?

The two worlds use similar techniques and similar methodologies, but in very removed ways. The free press is an integral part of any non-authoritarian and democratic society, and it’s extremely important to have journalists working to keep the people who hold power to account, at all times. So using data to that end is an interesting thing.

I’m not a fan of Wikileaks because I think Julian Assange is a narcissist and a fantasist, but I have much more time for Edward Snowden, who raises very interesting and valid points.

As far as its relation to punk rock, what I like about the internet and the proliferation of computing and connectivity is that it’s extremely decentralising, which I think is necessarily anti-authoritarian. In the way that people tried to do in the 1970s, and particularly in the 1980s, of building communities around the world that existed outside any official social channels, it’s now much easier to do. You can have a world community of people into extreme noise, into cross punk or whatever, connected through the internet. Those genres and those subcultures may go onto have political overtones, but I’m not sure that necessarily has to be a part of it.

Do you think the intimacy social media demands has made it more difficult for artists to separate their art from their personal politics?

The whole idea of musicians and artists – like me I suppose – having public platforms, I am instinctively allergic to. The moment where that opinion becomes slightly problematic is the idea of platforming. If somebody’s got 100,000 followers on Twitter, they do have an ability to spread a piece of information, and yes, one can use that to spread ideas.

For personal reasons, I try to maintain a distance between my art and my politics, partly because I operate within a left-wing milieu and I’m a libertarian. Being pro-market, libertarian, extreme liberal – however you want to put it –  doesn’t go down well in the music industry.

It’s a moral conundrum for me, because part of me wants to stand up for what I believe in, but at the same time, I’m much more interested in making music and in sound and art and song-writing than I am in spending my entire life arguing with people on Twitter and Facebook about politics.

Social media – love it or loathe it?

Social media is a tool; it’s morally neutral. It’s extremely powerful and can be used for great good or great evil.

I’ve used it for things that have been really great – I’ve done Twitter charity shows, for example, where you drop hints about where you’re going to play, then you have a gig and people come down and donate money.

On the flipside, the Twitter hate mob thing is not fun at all to be on the receiving end of. The tone of political debate on Twitter – it would be flattering to call it low.

Social media also seems to breed a sense of entitlement among a lot of music fans. There are people who feel they’ve been short-changed when they come to see me, I pour my guts out for two hours on stage, and then they didn’t get a selfie with me afterwards and therefore they feel like they didn’t get their money’s worth. I find that slightly problematic.

But social media exists. You can’t uninvent it so you’ve got to find ways of making your peace with it.

You recently live-tweeted a first date at a next-door restaurant table. What’s it like having 150,000 followers hanging on your every tweet?

It’s a double-edged sword – sometimes it can be funny and entertaining, and sometimes it can be annoying. In a random cross section of 150,000 people from around the world, you’re inevitably going to get a variety of opinions and levels of maturity and intelligence.  Sometimes I get depressed about tweeting out something that’s supposed to be funny and then getting a whole bunch of people getting uptight or people missing jokes. I try to deal with it by not taking it very seriously. There are people who take Twitter extremely seriously, and I find that pathetic.

PHOTO: Nicole C. Kibert

Nicolas Kayser-Bril interview: ‘It’s important to institutionalise data practices’

In 2008, Nicolas Kayser-Bril, a young graduate in media economics, fell into data journalism by chance because he could code simple stuff. He began his career by publishing stories with Le Monde and The Post ( the previous version of the Huffington Post in France). In 2010, he was part of the team at OWNI, a French digital think tank, that analysed the Afghanistan war logs. He is now his own CEO at the data-driven agency Journalism ++The highly accomplished data mastermind talked to Cristina Matamoros about the state of data journalism in France.

How did data journalism come to be in France?

There was a story of major importance that was run by The New York Times, The Guardian, and Der Spiegel, and a lot of media outlets realised they were left out of the story because they didn’t have people who could read SQL files. At OWNI, there were people who could do that, so I wrote the French version of the story with Pierre Romera and that’s pretty much when people realised that data journalism was a thing. 

Which company pioneered the usage of data journalism in France?

In France, it was definitely OWNI. I don’t think any newspaper or news organisation in France has made much progress in data journalism. Lots of things have been tried like Les Décodeurs from Le Monde, they’re a fantastic team. At Libération you have a new team, at le Parisien they have something as well. You have great things going on everywhere, but I don’t see any real data journalism team in the sense that you don’t have developers or designers as official teams as you see in Switzerland, Germany, and pretty much everywhere else in Europe, you don’t have that in France.

Why isn’t that the case in France compared to the UK?

In the UK, it’s the same situation as in France, in my opinion, in the sense that you don’t have news organisations driven by profit – the Guardian and the BBC are different – but other news organisations don’t see a return in investing in research and development. And this explains why you don’t have teams in France like you might have in Germany. This being said, there are many more interesting things in London than in Paris. One reason for that is because people who studied humanities drive journalism in France. So you couldn’t find a statistician in a French newsroom. So it’s much harder for French media.

If you were to direct the editorial team at Le Monde, what steps would you take to develop a data journalism team?

I wouldn’t, because the owner of Le Monde is not interested in profit. That said, creating a data journalism team is pretty easy; you just need a project manager, a journalist, and a designer, and have them work together. So it’s not that hard – it’s just that the French managers haven’t done it yet.

If you look at the ownership of local newspapers in France, you realise huge corporations mostly own them. And they have no interest at all in innovating journalism. What they really want is for the newspapers to do as little investigation as possible.

What is the advantage of doing local data journalism?

Nothing specific – it’s the same as doing data journalism at the local or national level. It allows better and more efficient reporting.

You have a lot of brilliant people in France, so you just need to find them and provide them with an environment where they can try things out.

And managers need to understand the need for investment in promising fields. But as long as these two conditions aren’t there, nothing is going to change.

Why Wechat is better than Whatsapp / 微信比what好的原因

I lived in Beijing for a year, which was an amazing, terrifying and eye-opening experience, all at the same time. As anyone who has lived in Asia will know, WeChat is a must, and most of us could not sing its praises more highly. Here are the five reasons you need to get WeChat in and around your life.


China is, even in 2015, a relatively misunderstood and mysterious country for many in the West. If you are one of the few Western journalists to have WeChat, you will find yourself part of a community instantly. Many people in China will warm to you as you’re making much more of an effort in their culture, and not presuming that Whatsapp, the American equivalent, is superior. With over 300 million users, can journalists afford not to take advantage of this networking platform?

Also WeChat can be seen as something of a hipster accessory in the West. If you have WeChat you are part of a small club and are showing your international credentials.




WeChat is a ‘cherry-picked’ version of Facebook, Whatsapp, Tinder and Instagram. Plus, in terms of intuitive technology, it is streets ahead. Scanning your friend’s QR code instead of typing their name, and voice messaging in a walking talkie style, is standard to most WeChat users.  While these are features on Western social network sites, they are not used as commonly.  

You have a personal wall like on Facebook and the same filters as on Instagram but without the competitive inconvenience of others being able to see how many likes you’ve got. With WeChat driving social networking, it is worth getting to grips with its innovations.




The emojis and interactive element of WeChat undoubtedly leave WhatsApp in the dust. After relying on WeChat for a year, I now feel unable to express the full breadth of my emotions with WhatsApp’s lack of emoji pictures. Once you’ve been able to use the frog and horse animation to express happiness, everything else feels somewhat inadequate.

WeChat also adds pictures for certain trigger words, i.e. if you say “Happy Birthday” animated cakes will rain down over the screen for a couple of seconds.

Perhaps this isn’t entirely relevant to journalism, however if emoji is indeed the fastest growing language in the world, then WeChat is providing a far larger vocabulary.


Conspiracy (are you joking)

I’ve had a few qualms about using Wechat due to the somewhat dubious question of the Chinese government monitoring my conversations or having access to my phone. However, with the new changes to the privacy laws being whizzed through British parliament as we speak, WeChat will be the least of your problems.




If as a journalist you want to gauge public opinion for an article, WeChat is an instant place to get feedback.

There is a large and responsive community accessible through many applications on WeChat. An example is the “message in a bottle” setting where you can send out questions – though be warned, of course, that there are a lot of creepy guys out there too. There are also various other functions for getting in contact with strangers such as “Look Around” and “Shake” applications.

So what are you waiting for? Download WeChat now and get experimenting!

BBC on the WWW: the website from 1996 to now

We decided to take a look through the Wayback Machine tool to watch the evolution of the Beeb online. The machine is a neat tool that has archived 445 billion web pages.

On the 21st December, 1996, John Major was Prime Minister; Mars Attacks, 101 Dalmatians and the English Patient were in cinemas; and the BBC’s website looked like this…

21 Dece 1996 image 1

That’s a lot of blue.

Later, in April 1997 – we can see past the homepage….

Image 2

We wondered – what was ‘new’ in April 1997?


By October however, someone had clearly had a word with the design team…

Oct 1997 bbc IMAGE 4 ]

Classic BBC, all the content leaning to the left…

By December, a recognisable website was taking shape.

IMAGE 5Let’s fast forward.

This is the BBC website at half past ten on the morning of 11th September 2001.

BBC morning Sept 11 2001

At quarter past six, the news of the terrorist attacks in New York dominated the airwaves.

BBC 2001 terror

In 2003, after the invasion of Afghanistan, the US – backed by the UK – launched an attack on Iraq...

Iraq 2003

By the 2010 General Election, the BBC website starts to balance photos and text more effectively. 

2010 parliament

And this is what the site looks like today…


The BBC’s website has certainly come a long way since 1996. Let’s see that again…

21 Dece 1996 image 1

How to live tweet an event

Why live tweet?

Share: If you’re interested in an event you’re attending, the chances are that others who can’t make it or don’t already know about it will be interested too. Live tweet to give them an insight into the best bits of what’s being said.

Grow: You will gain followers, exposure and skills. You’ll catch people’s attention. And live tweeting is a great exercise for honing that key journalistic talent for filtering what’s most important, then broadcasting it to an audience.

Save time: Writing a report after the event, if you need to, is much easier once you’ve already distilled the best quotes. It can be little more than adding structure, conjunctions, full stops and some context.

What to live tweet?

When I’m listening to speakers and looking for quotes, I have the “so what?” test running in my head. When you hear a short, important phrase you think worthy of a quote, ask “so what?”. If there’s a clear answer why your followers should care about the quote, then go ahead and tweet it.

Direct quotes are best, in “ ” marks:

Paraphrase if you have to:

How to live tweet?

Before On the day of the event – or earlier if it’s hotly anticipated – tweet at regular intervals to let everyone know you’re going to be live-tweeting. Include details – when, from where, and what about, as well as a link to the event. Entice with pictures!

Check if there’s an event hashtag. Make sure you are following all the parties you’ll want to tag: the speakers, the chair, the venue and the organisers.

Gather your equipment. I prefer live tweeting from my iPhone because:

    1. SILENCE: Typing into a phone is silent; typing into a laptop isn’t. Depending on what kind of event you’re at, tapping away at a laptop keyboard can be disruptive and you may draw weird looks from irked audience members next to you. Obviously if it’s a tech conference, you’re absolutely fine, but at the above Frontline Club event on stateless peoples, the rapt audience did not appreciate tap-tap-tap in the corner.
    2. HABIT: Our minds are habituated to typing brief phrases into a phone keyboard, rather than the long sentences we usually write into laptops. Brief phrases suit live-tweeting.

Have your laptop open too – it’s useful for confirming the odd detail or searching Twitter for a tag you need while your tweet box is already open on your phone.

At the event Sit at the back or sides of the room. I find other audience members tend to get irritated by my flipping between phone and laptop, and this in turn distracts me. Live-tweeting takes focus – distractions aren’t welcome!

Don’t worry if you start tweeting a quote, but then the speaker comes up with a far more interesting one you’d rather tweet. Delete your draft so far and go for it.

You will miss quotes – that’s part of the nature of tweeting live. You’re giving your audience the most salient points, not a blow-by-blow documentation of the event.

You’ll find as you type quotes in that most come up over 140 characters. You’ll need to crop sentences all the time. Paraphrase succinctly, using just a very short quoted phrase if that helps. If only one tag will fit in the tweet, I usually put the speaker.

Tag anyone relevant to a specific quote; for instance, when Gonzalo Vargas Llosa mentioned the UNHCR, I tagged them in the tweet. It’s a great way to get your live tweets more exposure.

If you notice typos or misquotes after you’ve published a tweet, I copy the tweet, paste in a new one, delete the original one and republish the correct tweet. Don’t worry about the tweets being out of time sequence. After Remember a concluding tweet so your followers know it’s over. You also might want to post any follow-up links.

New followers, likes and retweets will continue for hours and usually the next couple of days after the event.

Repeat at your next event!

Five things we learned from a new book on data journalism

City University played host to a book launch and panel discussion that included Nick Phipps of Sky News, Megan Lucero of The Times and The Sunday Times, and City University lecturer Tom Felle last week. All of whom contributed to the book entitled, Data Journalism: Inside the Global Future.  The panel was led by Ray Snoddy, former media editor at The Sunday Times. The topic was the future of journalism and how data plays into that future. Here is what we learned.

1. Data Journalism is changing election coverage

The two big winners of the past election coverage were The Times and Sky News, and data played a huge role in that.

Megan Lucero and her team at The Times looked at the data that was coming out of polling companies and realised it was wrong. The team then took a huge gamble and choose not to project based on the data. The decision was then to run their own polling model using machine learning and basic public data that resulted in the The Times calling some of the most accurate polling reporting of the night.

While Nick Phipps and the team at Sky News provided the most in depth coverage of the night using graphics to tell the story. Sky News made the coverage about the visuals and not the numbers, a huge component of data journalism.

2. FOI almost helped inspire the current data journalism movement

The access to information provided by the Freedom of Information Act nearly a decade ago implemented the framework for data coverage as it is today. As Nick Phipps points out news today: “is all about original content, it’s not longer enough to carry the same [news} as everyone else because it’s all out there anyway. So FOI is an incredibly powerful tool to come up with original stories.”

3. Audiences expect higher standard from broadcast

Modern television audiences are much more sophisticated in the use of technology and expect more presentation when it comes to their news. People are plugged into their phones, laptops, iPads and they want their news to run on all the different platforms they are on. The challenge for broadcasters is now to comply with public demand for more streamline coverage.

4. Social media is great for colour

Social media is a resource that organisations mainly use to provide amusement for audiences. Sky News used social media to track mentions of politicians and parties. While journalist use it as an “echo chamber” to engage their readers and other journalist.

5. In the years to come data journalism will not exist, it will just be journalism

We are generating data everyday and that is the source of where stories come from. Audiences are pushing journalism to be more democratic. Including data in reports allows for transparency because users can look at the data and really analyse it.  Also, data stories can be looked at from various different angels, and data allows for instant interpretation. The advantages of telling stories using data are countless, but the stories are still king.  Data is simply the means to tell the story.

20,000 Years of International Relations – Liveblog

International Relations has come to mean a global system. LSE Professor Ian Morris explains how the growth of the international system and the shifts of power is linked to geography and oil extraction at a LSE Ideas event.