At the Crossroads of Media, Culture and Technology

The New Narrative Frontier: Data-Based Storytelling

Story in numbers

Graphic: Cynthia Alice Andrews

What comes to mind when  you hear the word “story”? Maybe a book, a movie, a television show or just a uniquely human way to interact. Whatever it “means” to you, the principles of storytelling are increasingly used to make sense of the fastest-growing resource of our time: data. Data can enrich a story or form the base around which a narrative is built. Whether it is using the former or the latter, all data now plays an important role in engaging people, communicating with them and helping them make decisions.

To better understand this new intersection of data and story, Flip the Media talked to Josh Coulson (@joshc0), a data storyteller. Josh began his career as a business analyst in the insurance world where he discovered that many companies were still struggling to use data in their decision-making process.  He now works for Linkedin where he does just that–assisting decision-making with marketing stories built on data. Josh sees data storytelling as “the marrying of the two sides of influencing, it hits on both the emotional and logical sides of human decision-making and can be incredibly effective.”

In your opinion, what are some examples of great stories being told using data today?

I think great examples of the use of data in storytelling [can be seen] in social media, specifically on Twitter and Facebook. Both sites use data and analytics very effectively to surface relevant stories to each user.

A great example of content-based data storytelling is the use of predictive analytics in the recommendation engine for online music streaming services like Spotify and Pandora. Each service uses the data gathered on my usage and presents back to me stories about music recommended to me based on my usage.

Where do you see data-based storytelling in five years? Ten years?

Data is only going to become more prevalent and its usage more intelligent, with marketing messages becoming more targeted and sensors feeding huge amounts of data about every interaction in our lives. The internet of things will bring about a whole new level of data that will enable companies to offer new products and services to each consumer based on their needs. We will continue to tell stories driving the level of intelligence in common decision-making further.

What kinds of stories do you tell using data?

LinkedIn has a simple yet ambitious vision: connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful. I build stories that help organisations with their strategy and help them reach their talent goals. Anything from looking at talent pools around specific skill sets ( and how companies can use these insights to define how and where they’re targeting talent, to helping organisations benchmark and compare how they’re performing against gender diversity targets.

If you’re interested in knowing more about Josh, what he does and the stories Linkedin tells with data, check out this video from Talent Connect Australia 2013:

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This post is categorized in: Advertising, Business, Social Media, Society, Technology

About Cynthia Andrews

After graduating from Arizona State University in 2010 with a degree in Art History, Cynthia Andrews decided to head for the Pacific Northwest. Shortly after her arrival in Seattle, she began to investigate the prospect of graduate school. She soon applied to the Communication Leadership program at the University of Washington, where she is now working towards a Master of Communication in Digital Media. This program’s emphases on emerging technologies and social intelligence have prepared her for her current role as the community manager for for Flip the Media.

One Response to The New Narrative Frontier: Data-Based Storytelling

  1. Pingback: Our Stuff Will Tell Us Stories | story of design

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