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  • 10.15.15

Why Vocativ Is Doubling Down On Data Viz

The deep web media company has acquired Dadaviz, an Israel-based company that once aspired to be the YouTube of data visualization.

Why Vocativ Is Doubling Down On Data Viz

Last time we heard from Dadaviz, a team of infographic auteurs based in Tel Aviv, they were looking to launch the YouTube of data visualization. Here’s the bad news: they totally failed to do that. “Around two months after launch, we figured out most of our traffic came from the visualizations we did ourselves,” says Dadaviz founder Jishai Evers. “So we realized we’d be better off just focusing on that, and dropped the curating aspect.”

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But Dadaviz’s dropping of its original mission didn’t spell failure. In fact, it opened a door. The company has now been acquired by Vocativ, the deep web media company first founded in 2013 to use data mining technology to discover and tell stories. It’s all part of Vocativ’s strategy to double down on data visualization.

As part of its new place within Vocativ, Dadaviz will work to generate data visualizations for stories on the fly, integrating with the rest of Vocativ’s staff. Unlike a regular newsroom, Vocativ’s approach to generating content is a little different: instead of every story going from an editor to a beat writer to the art department, the company has broken its newsroom down into self-contained units. Although these units are overseen by a senior editor, the actual mix of people within it may contain video producers, graphic designers, social media producers, GIF makers, and so on.

“The mix differs, but it’s up to these units to figure out the best way to tell a story with all of the data at their disposal,” says Vocativ’s Chief Content Officer Gregory Gittrich. That data is supplied by Verne, a proprietary tool Vocativ uses to scan the deep web for interesting stories, social media posts, and other assets that might otherwise get missed. With Dadaviz’s team of data visualizers now absorbed into Vocativ’s ranks, and Evers now reporting as the deputy managing editor of visual storytelling unit, Vocativ now has over 20 journalists on staff focused on data visualization, and is capable of producing them almost 24 hours a day.

The acquisition of Dadaviz is part of a bigger push to restructure Vocativ’s content strategy. Since Gittrich came on board in January, Vocativ has shifted its strategy to visual storytelling. “We’re very focused on creating stories that live in social media now,” says Gittrich. The idea is that Vocativ’s audience might never actually visit the website, but instead experience Vocativ content through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and so on.

It’s a strategy that has already paid huge dividends. Since January, Vocativ has seen a 13,029% increase in Facebook shares. That’s not a typo. Facebook comments have similarly increased over 14,000%. Views of Vocativ’s videos have gone from 1.6 million a month in January to 95.8 million last month. And despite the fact that Vocativ’s new strategy is to produce content that you never need to leave Facebook to consume, the traffic on Vocativ.com has shot through the roof: they’re up to 8 million uniques a month, from 2.5 million in January. Gittrich thinks the addition of the Dadaviz team to Vocativ’s newsroom is only going to make those numbers more impressive.

Dadaviz’s acquisition is just the latest example of data viz going pro. “I think media companies are hiring us up because there’s a huge, young audience flocking to data viz,” says Evers. But why? It’s “no bullshit journalism,” according to Evers: just an attractive, insightful presentation of the facts that allows readers to make up their own mind. It’s also an extremely friendly format for a mobile-first audience, says Evers. It requires a change in how you go about designing them, but data visualizations make their biggest impact when they can be used without scrolling on a smartphone.

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That’s why Vocativ’s buying Dadaviz. In an industry that is still having a hard time figuring out mobile, Vocativ has recognized data viz as every bit as viral as GIFs and videos. “With the Dadaviz team on board, we know we can do more,” says Gittrich. “We know this approach works, and we know it resonates.”