Suppose your media vertical is advocating for a cause. In science terms, you are effectively starting with a hypothesis: you are already starting with the end and then working backward. For example, a media site focusing on gender issues already assumes that gender disparity is an issue.
News is a function of what is new. Journalists chase events: the significant development of the day.
However, most of the problems that our society faces are infinite. They are never going to be solved. Even if there is progress, the change will be slow. Even after the change, there will always be a case to further improve things. Given this, we should look at these issues with a strategic mindset and think in arcs of 3-5 years, if not more. What does this mean? We need to look at these problems longitudinally and build media that will stand the test of time.
For example, a crime reporter on any given day reports on thefts, murders, along with other crimes in the city. Every day, there are crimes and statements from police, witnesses, and victims. However, there’s no understanding of what’s causing these crimes, who is involved, and what can be done. It is likely that the reporter might know this intuitively. But does the reader?
However, suppose the crime reporter starts logging each criminal incident in a Google Sheet. In that case, the reporter can discover temporal and geographical patterns from the data collected. This gives the reporter and the reader a longitudinal—over a large timescale—view of issues. Most importantly, it deepens and contextualizes the reporter and the reader’s knowledge of the issues they are tracking and are passionate about.
The CEO of Netscape, Jim Barksdale, famously used to say, “If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.”
Sometimes, when things do not happen as they want them to be, some react with moral panic. Moreover, when we make statements without evidence, they can be perceived to be ‘political statements.’ While emotional arguments will get us momentum and mass appeal, it will fail to persuade and inform those not from our tribe. The problem with opinions is that it is based on subjective perceptions, assumptions, personal biases, and political positions. Hence, it can never be universal.
In comparison, when we use reason, data, scholarly literature, and historical context, it helps build the case. Fact establishes credibility and can be independently verified. With this, there is an opportunity to dialogue with others with evidence rooted in reality instead of ideological positions. The subsequent dialogue helps bring down polarization.
After everyone has evaluated (and accepted or rejected) your evidence, stakeholders on the other side of the aisle recognize and understand the cause you are advocating for.
Some will argue that this cause isn’t the most critical problem to focus on. But even they will understand where you are coming from.
Others will agree that this is an essential issue to focus on. With them, the discussion can move to what can be done about it.
If yes, here is how you build a case. Any ROI can be articulated with two variables:
This gives us four business cases:
Sometimes the data or information already exists, but it is barely usable because it is not organized, has poor hygiene or readability, and presentation. A significant event has or will happen. You can reuse this existing data or information to achieve a business objective.
In news and journalism, the event can be a national election, a terrorist attack, or a war. You want to do a unique project that attracts and engages the audience. As an advertisement agency, you are about to pitch to a major client and build up a swipe file for inspiration.
These projects have a well-defined start and end. Once implemented, these projects do not need to be maintained. After the event, such evergreen research has evergreen utility and can pull in long-tail traffic.
Low effort for a finite amount of time is the best way for your organization to start experimenting with spreadsheet journaling.
Daily there’s a lot of hustle-bustle and activity at work — we prospect, meet people, research, read, build.
For some of us, like salespeople or daily-beat reporters, our role is to produce regular, consistent output. However, that output has a shelf-life of only a few days. Think of it like notifications in your Facebook account — useful now, not so much later. Additionally, many such daily grunt-work often never reach a logical conclusion — leads drop off, stories are not filed, etc.
Using spreadsheet journaling, you can convert daily activity into a strategic asset, where a bigger and better picture shapes up. Over time, this asset gives insights in the form of patterns, outliers, etc. This way, you start productizing your byproducts.
“What is measured is what’s managed,” or so goes the saying.
Some issues happen sporadically — geographically or temporally. Hence, there is no clear evidence of their occurrence. Additionally, no formal agency (or government or company) is tracking this issue formally. Without evidence, there is no credible way to understand the magnitude of the issue or act upon it in such situations. In such situations, use spreadsheet journaling to build evidence.
There are two ways to build evidence. Either you do secondary research and collate data from secondary sources. Alternatively, you connect with people and report from the ground to collect evidence.
Such projects are too costly to execute, yet many niche organizations do it since they are well-connected within a community or deeply connected with the mission. Some projects in the below swipe file that falls under this category are Yemen Data Project, EBWiki, Homicide Watch.