Data Journalism can be intimidating. The idea of being confronted by huge statistics, spreadsheets, and numbers is not everyone’s idea of fun and collecting, sifting and mashing complex data like government statistics does require some skill. One of the main roles of a data journalist is to try and open these statistics up to a larger audience and to communicate them more simply so that they can be broadly understood.
A recent article in The Guardian revealed the general public may not need as much help as experts imagine , for they seem to be some of the most discerning data synthesizers around; especially when the numbers relate to their bank balances. Take heed, professional data journalists: ‘Customers make a killing after Tesco is forced to pay out refunds as price pledge backfires.’ (Daily Mail)
The supermarket giant Tesco has faced embarrassment this week after one of its price promises backfired. It had promised to reimburse customers twice the amount of the price gap if they could show products bought from their biggest rival were cheaper.
However hundreds of shrewd customers have been claiming money back after finding that some of Tesco’s products were in fact more expensive than at its main rival, Asda. The customers had been logging on to price comparison websites such as pricegrabber.co.uk to compare products and share their findings with other customers. By taking the initiative to check Tesco’s promise out, customers had collected, mashed, and shared vast amounts of data; and all this by simply logging on with their receipt details.
One example calculated showed a shopping basket that included:
- 2 bottles of Chardonnay
- 2 bottles of pear cider
- 2 bottles of body moisturizer
- 1 pack of mature cheddar.
It came to £17.48 at Asda and £38.46 at Tesco. That’s a pretty stark difference of £20.98.
But this is nothing new. In fact, when we really think about it, we are actively encouraged by advertising campaigns to do our own data journalism. On the tube billboards in London there are always poster for car insurance websites, inviting you to ‘compare’ company prices. Over the past few years there has been a real influx of sites like comparethemarket.com, gocompare.com and moneysupermarket.com and they all claim to be offering a data journalism service where you can compare UK prices, read user reviews, expert product reviews and online shopping guides.
These sites are incredibly popular and so it would seem the general public are more data savvy than they are necessarily given credit for.
Emily Lingard (@EmilyLingard)