How inflation affects you: tracking and explaining the rise of prices
Entry type: Single project
Publishing organisation: elDiario.es
Organisation size: Big
Publication date: 2022-03-24
Authors: Raúl Sánchez, Victòria Oliveres, Ana Ordaz, Daniel Yebra, Rodrigo Ponce de León
Raúl Sánchez: data journalist covering stories of inequality, gender, health, taxes and urbanism at elDiario.es. He coordinates elDiario.es data team.
Victòria Oliveres: journalist member of elDiario.es data team. She is specialized in data gathering, analysis and visualization and focused in education, health, environment and gender stories.
Ana Ordaz: journalist member of elDiario.es data team. Supporting with data and visualization stories at elDiario.es and focused on covering politics, elections, culture and social stories with data.
Daniel Yebra: Spanish journalist specialized in macroeconomics, inflation and financial markets at elDiario.es.
Rodrigo Ponce de León: ditor in chief of economics section at elDiario.es.
In 2022 Spain was one of the most affected countries by inflation in the EU. During the year, elDiario.es tracked the price of more than 200 products on the shopping cart and the cost of fuels. We also analyzed more than 8 million registers to explain how the electricity market establishes the prices, and developed an interest rates calculator to show how they are affecting mortgage payments. All of it pursuing one goal: offer a service to citizens about how macroeconomic data is having direct consequences in their personal finances and lives.
Our inflation coverage includes a price tracker of two hundred products and services that compose the shopping cart (link 1), which is updated every month, that helped us to prove inflation moved from energy bills to basic food products like milk. This tracker also helped our readers to make better informed decisions about their purchases.
We also updated a gas station map that shows the evolution of the fuel price in each gas station of Spain (link 4), that allowed every reader to know where it was cheaper to refuel, and a calculator about how the rise of the interest rates could alter mortgages, updated every time the Euribor changes (link 3).
We were the first media in Spain that published a daily tracker of gas station prices, so readers could check the daily evolution of the gas prices in their nearby gas stations.
Apart from trackers and periodic updates, we explain the complex operation of the marginal electricity market in Spain and why green energies are bought at gas prices (link 2), and how basic food products are climbing month by month and this is especially damaging to humble families (link 6).
Some pieces appear as published in 2023, this is due to their continuous update, but they were originally published in 2022.
For data compilation, cleaning and analysis we use R programming language, with the R Studio software. In other cases we use Excel and also Google Spreadsheets, when we need to work collaboratively.
The project also includes some visual narrative, as in piece number 2. The development of a scroll narrative allows us to present a big amount of complex information in an easy and explicatively way. For some other details, such those in piece 1, (emojis and little images) we used HTML and Adobe Illustrator. HTML was also used for tooltips in interactive graphics.
The combination of these techniques and technologies allow us to have very automatized processes. This means a great advantage and allows us to update data and visualizations in a few minutes.
Context about the project:
Over the past year, elDiario.es monitored the rise of prices in an inflation tracker. Readers could check how each one of the 200 products and services that compose the shopping cart change their prices, and compare the current price with every month since the beginning of the pandemic. This piece has been in continuous update since then, month by month. We were able to demonstrate that prices of basic and healthy foodstuffs were suffering the highests rises, and we narrated how the gap between humble and rich families got bigger due to these rises.
At the beginning of the year, elDiario.es elaborated an interactive map to show, day by day, the price of petrol and diesel oil in each one of the gas stations of the country, and its variation regarding the last week. Thanks to this analysis, we could prove that 60% of the gas stations were raising their prices to internalize the bonification that the Government had conceived to soften the price rise of fuel.
At the same time, the price of electricity beated historical records also in March 2022. In order to explain what was behind such exorbitant prices, elDiario.es analyzed more than eight million registries in the electricity market over 2021. The investigation explained how the marginal electricity market works in an educational way and proved that green energies are bought at gas prices.
By the end of the year, the European Central Bank raised interest rates significantly. This fact meant another concern for Spanish homes after a tough year. elDiario.es elaborated a calculator where readers could check how the rise of the interest rates would affect their mortgages. Once more, elDiario.es attempted to provide reliable and personalized information in a friendly and clear format.
Many of these pieces allow the readers to have very specific and personalized information, which is essential for reaching our goal of public service. The pieces composing this project reached more than 300.000 views.
What can other journalists learn from this project?
The inflation series of articles proves the importance of data journalism in contributing to the public service. Thanks to techniques and softwares of analysis and visualization, it is possible to “translate” vast amounts of economic data into nice explicative charts. Behind this complex macroeconomic data there are daily tangible concerns, and it is our labor to make this essential data accessible to everyone. For this goal, teamwork is key. The Data team of elDiario.es works side by side with the rest of the colleagues, traditional journalists specialized in -in this case- Economics, who provide their knowledge and background to the data analysis, resulting in contextualized and complete information.
This project can also be a good example of transforming “boring” and heavy economic data into interactive, intuitive and customized pieces of news. The piece about inflation, for example, shows how it is possible to use official open data to develop more elaborated analysis. Through visualizations and visual narratives, elDiario.es Data team always tries to explain complex issues in an explicative and attractive way.
Also, it proves that sometimes classic simple visualizations, such as bars chart, line chart and tables, far from becoming boring or not original, can be really convenient. And that they can combine perfectly with other visualizations far more complex.