Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

Multimedia journalism that’s making money

Posted in Entrepreneurial Journalism by Adam Westbrook on October 19, 2011

Death & Taxes by Jess Bachman

What you’re looking at is a very profitable piece of multimedia journalism.

Death & Taxes is a data visualisation project by Jess Bachman: a 24×36 inch glossy poster that’s just been published by Seth Godin’s Domino Project. It’s available to buy from Amazon US – for $27.00 (currently discounted to $20) – and at the time of writing, has already sold out.

Jess (who isn’t a trained journalist) took all the spending data published by the US government (he says it runs into thousands of spreadsheets) and visualised it into this one image. And let me repeat the most important point: it’s a poster. Not an interactive, not a video, or a motion graphic – a poster: something you can sell to the public. Something that can go up on classroom walls.

I bet no-one teaches poster production on multimedia journalism courses these days…maybe they should.

This is an example of a clever idea, that serves a need, packaged in a sellable way. And here’s the takeaway: anyone reading this blog could have done this. The data is available, for free. The data interrogation and cleansing is free too, if you learn how to do it. The design is tricky, but doable – especially if you rope in a talented friend.

What does it cost? Time -and lots of it. Plus determination and stamina – all fuelled by a brilliant idea.