Fascinating model for data driven journalism from the Netherlands

With the Dutch Tool Localfocus.nl anyone can visualize data on maps and in charts. Localfocus was developed with the same users in mind as the German premium tool Datawrapper: editorial departments. Localfocus has a special service for them: The team offers interesting data they research, clean and combine. The idea is to get data from all Dutch local councils so that every editor using Localfocus can quickly how his community compares to others in the Netherlands in regards to taxes for dogs, income of inhabitants and the like. Localfocus got support from the Dutch Stimuleringsfonds voor de Journalistiek twice (an fund founded by the ministry for culture and education to foster innovation in journalism). Localfocus-Co-Founder Jelle Kamsma answered my questions:

– What is Localfocus and what makes it special?

LocalFocus is a data-driven news agency that collects data from different sources and makes it insightful for journalists. We collect the data both manually and automatically on everything from election results to crime statistics to what people are spending on dog taxes in different cities. Journalists can use our data for their news stories. They can make selections within the data and get an immediate visual feedback so they can easily spot interesting trends or anomalies for their story. The maps and charts generated in our platform can then be used to enrich the article. The visuals are fully responsive and in their own branding. Our platform can also be used for journalists to explore, share and visualize their own data, making it easy for colleagues to work together on data-driven investigations and quickly generate visualizations for online, but also for print and even tv.

– What are the biggest hurdles blocking more data-based reporting like it is possible with localfocus?

The biggest hurdle for especially a lot of the smaller news rooms is of course time and money. A lot of the journalists see the potential of data journalism but can’t find the time to learn the necessary technical skills and don’t have the funds to employ an expert to do it for them.

– How can Localfocus change that?

What we try to show with LocalFocus is that it doesn’t have to be so difficult to incorporate data-based reporting in the everyday workflow. We offer them interesting data in an easy-to-use format so they can go beyond just interviews and anecdotes. For us it’s also really interesting to see how just one data-driven investigation can lead to so many different stories. In that sense we’re just as dependent on the journalists we work with as the other way around cause we could never have told all these stories by ourselves.

– Who is using Localfocus as a tool?

Right now we have about twelve organizations as a client. This includes national news organizations such as NU.nl, Financieel Dagblad and NRC. They use LocalFocus mainly as a tool to share data across the newsroom and to quickly make goodlooking maps and graphs. But we also work with a lot of regional and local news outlets who are looking for region-specific data about their area to make stories that are relevant to their audience.

– Is Localfocus a business you can or you plan to earn a living from?

Our team consists of three people (two journalists and a developer) and after two years of hard work we have just arrived at a point where we can make a modest living from our activities.

– What do you want to add to Localfocus next?

The last couple of months we’ve been working hard on the second version of our data platform. Uploading complex datasets has become more intuitive and it’s easier for us now to add new features that our clients requested. This week we started beta testing and together with the beta we’ve launched an English version. So anybody interested in having a look at the new data platform can send us a mail for an invite.