How Combining Content Tells the Whole Story

by | Sep 24, 2018

My favorite course in my undergrad was JOUR 407: Data Journalism and Visualization. What I thought would be countless hours of reporting and math turned into mostly tedious tasks like searching through endless files of public data and cleaning out spreadsheets. (yawn).

But the 10 percent of the time spent making the data meaningful was worth it. The goal of the course was to teach students how to create insightful, visual content to drive traffic to their stories. This class evolved from another tool in my journalistic toolbox into a great marketing skill.

I’m no longer in the field of journalism, but those 3 credit hours probably taught me the most applicable skills to my current position. Content marketing and journalism actually have a lot in common; both must constantly strategize tactics to get readers or customers to view their page. In journalism, views and clicks are the monetary goals, while marketers use views to land lead generating traffic, which will hopefully turn to sales.

As a writer in both my undergrad and now my profession, a major piece of knowledge I carried through both chapters is that written content is always best served with another visual piece—charts, infographics, videos, pictures, etc. The written copy is your steak, but the visualization is the seasoning; the steak tastes bland without it.

More Media = More Insight

It’s like reading the book vs. watching the movie. The book provides maximum detail, but you can understand the main points by watching the movie. I have never read The Hunger Games series but I’ve watched the movies a few too many times; I can still tell you exactly what the series is about. Pairing text with infographics or a video can tell a story from a different angle or showcase a “how-to” better than one media medium.

People learn in different ways. Certain tasks must be told in a specific manner to help readers to understand what they’re supposed to grasp. For example, a contracting company providing a step-by-step explainer on “how to build a shed” would benefit greatly by adding pictures or videos with each step rather than just a list of bullet-points. A marketing company can pair infographics with text to provide readers and potential clients with visual results. That’s what Transformation Marketing did in a recent email blast:

Website Campaign Success
Click image to read the entire success story.

Make It Memorable

Content becomes more memorable and engaging when paired with a visual aid. Plus, adding infographics can show the sheer scale of a statistic that even the best writing is incapable of. A writer can tell their readers that 23 percent of the contiguous U.S experienced extreme drought in March 2015, but The New York Times’s visualization paints the real picture:

Nearly 1/4 of US land experienced extreme drought in march 2015
Click the image to view the NYT’s full story on the 2015 drought.

Tell the Story Differently

I personally enjoy reading my information while others enjoy watching it. But recent trends indicate that the number of people who prefer video content rather than written is growing. This is seen in the rise of documentary filmmaking and the recent declines in long-form journalism.

Experts contribute these trends to the shifts in media mediums since the dawns of radio and television. Today’s media is increasing in pace while our attention spans shorten—grabbing immediate attention is essential to success. Axios is a great example of a media outlet adjusting to this trend to cover breaking news. Articles list the word count, display reading time, and contain short bullet points.

Video cannot tell the full story—some information MUST be written to maximize its communicative potential.Marketers should mix and match different forms of content to encompass the full scope of their message. Visualizations paired with writing shortens word count while increasing attention, clicks and time spent on page—a cornerstone to marketing and advertising.


Source: QUEALY, MIKE BOSTOCK and KEVIN. “Mapping the Spread of Drought Across the U.S.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 24 July 2014,

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