Paying a premium

Entry type: Single project

Country/area: Australia

Publishing organisation: ABC News

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 2022-08-16

Language: English

Authors: By Inga Ting, Katia Shatoba, Alex Palmer, Thomas Brettell, and Bronwyn Herbert


Inga Ting is a data journalist, Katia Shatoba and Thomas Brettell are developers and Alex Palmer is a designer. All four are in ABC News’ Digital Story Innovations team. Bronwyn Herbert is a reporter based in Lismore, New South Wales.

Project description:

This story used exclusive new data to examine the cost and affordability of home insurance in 2022 and 2050, in both a high-emissions and low-emissions future.

It revealed that one million households in Australia already face “extreme” levels of insurance stress and will bear the brunt of future premium hikes driven by climate change.

This research was far more dire than previous estimates.

Impact reached:

This story aimed to familiarise a new audience with the world of climate risk and insurance through engaging, easy-to-understand visualisations and an interactive search tool that put complex actuarial data in the hands of a lay audience.

The story distilled a vast, technical dataset into a compelling narrative for the general reader, giving them the tools to “drill down” into the data and find insights tailored to their location.

The impact included:
* Enabling a lay audience to understand and explore the numbers and calculations that drive wider governmental and business decisions about their homes and neighbourhoods
* Injecting a level of transparency and accountability into questions about rising insurance premiums
* Empowering the “Australian on the street” to participate in a debate that directly affects them, but is widely seen as being dominated by powerful insurance companies, big banks and “technocrats”.

The story’s enduring importance has been underscored by readers who have continued to return to the story during Australia’s recent unprecedented floods.

Techniques/technologies used:

This story combined powerful case studies, compelling visualisations, and an interactive database that allowed users to find data personalised to their location, household income or insurance premium.

We used multiple visual forms — ranging from bar charts, dot plots and maps to the central connected scatterplot — to illustrate the data. By breaking the data into smaller, “bite-sized” visual pieces, we aimed to make the entire dataset more digestible, and to allow users to understand the data from multiple angles.

This technique also allowed users to choose the level of detail they wanted to engage with.

Tools and technologies used included:
– Excel, Google Sheets, Tableau Prep, Tableau and Datawrapper for data cleaning, data blending, analysis, mapping and charts
– Figma and Adobe Illustrator for UI + dataviz design
– HTML, CSS + JS and Illustrator for the national maps and smaller static charts
– HTML, CSS, JS with D3 for interactive charts and Scrollyteller.
– HTML, CSS, JS with D3 (insurance risk, premium and affordability charts) and Deck.gl (map) for interactive search.

Context about the project:

A key challenge of such a technical dataset was working out the “headline” measures that would immediately convey the importance of the data to a lay audience. This required going back and forth with the data provider many times, asking for multiple tweaks to the analysis and weeks of discussion with the about what readers would want to know and whether the data could provide meaningful answers.

In the end, the key visual form chosen to illustrate the data (a connected scatterplot) was very different to any of the visualisations used in the original report. However, our project partners loved it and audience feedback indicated it was highly effective.

What can other journalists learn from this project?

As an outstanding example of data-driven storytelling and explanatory business reporting, it showcases skills such as:
* Making large amounts of complex data digestible and explorable, by providing the tools for readers to find “personalised” insights
* Re-framing dry, potentially unappealing calculations and analyses to immediately convey their importance to a lay audience
* Data visualisation that is powerful, accurate and legible
* Creative approaches to handling vast amounts of data, especially readers on mobile phones

Project links: