January 8, 2019, by Erik Larson

Data Stories vs. Data Portals

How the new science of telling stories with data goes beyond traditional GIS

The use of GIS data portal technology in economic development goes back at least 20 years. To put into context, that's around or before the time that Google was founded. At the time people were searching the internet with sites like AskJeeves.com, and the world was a-buzz with the prospects of data access on the internet.

But 20 years is a long time in the world of technology. Our attention spans are shorter and thousands of apps now compete for this shrinking attention. Going back to the use of GIS data portals in marketing your community, one should now ask the question, does this site help my community stand out among the competition?

If you require more convincing that a change in technology from data access to data stories is needed, consider this recent research: 63% of people can recall information told through stories, while only 5% can recall based on numbers alone. In a nutshell, information alone doesn't get through to 95% of your potential audience.

Below are a few differentiating elements between traditional GIS data portals, and the new breed of data stories – data and narrative that paints a picture, and gives your audience the key messages, quickly.

A few key differences between data stories and traditional GIS portals

  1. Finding the story in raw data. Data is easier to get than ever, but it is equally easy to misinterpret. Many cities we talk to struggle to overcome inaccurate perceptions of their community, whether it's the size and make up of the workforce, or consumer potential in the surrounding areas. Within the numbers lies a narrative that, told correctly, will highlight the unique strengths of your community.

  2. Leading with key takeaways. Data portals allow users to peruse information, but the user's takeaway at the end of this (usually brief) session is really impossible to predict. The best we can do is what great communicators do: lead with the takeaways. Everything that follows either reinforces these takeaways or adds additional content and interactivity.

  3. Even better on mobile devices. More than 2/3 of Americans are getting their news on mobile devices. Your community profile report should be no different. Busy executives should be able to click and look on their iPhone, and have as good or better experience than in a browser.

Here is a great example (scroll frame to see it all)

At eImpact, we help economic development groups get more interest from prospective businesses using data as a key part of the strategy. Our solution provides everything you need, from data collection and analysis, to a beautiful online interface, which is mobile-awesome.

Interested in learning more? We'd love to hear from you.

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