Datawatch is a series of articles on Nikkei Asia and Nihon Keizai Shimbun published by Nikkei Inc., a media group that includes the Financial Times as well. The article is published every Sunday featuring different topics ranging from politics, economy, markets and Covid-19. Each of the articles utilizes the latest and unique techniques in data journalism, with more than 50 articles published in 2020.
Nikkei aims to analyze data to reveal facts that governments and companies were not aware of and to encourage changes in their policies. Today, Datawatch has become one of the most popular weekend contents of Nikkei.
Datawatch is one of the pioneers in Japanese data journalism in Japan.
Each of the articles sparked debate on the internet, gaining attention from political and business leaders, as well as investors. Policymakers have repeatedly commented on how the stories have helped them formulate policies.
For example, Nikkei analyzed and reported about Covid-19 using data; in March 2020, Nikkei became the first Japanese media to report how the number of people in the cities declined due to the pandemic and mobility restrictions by using satellite data, cell phones as well as restaurant reservations.
Nikkei analyzed Covid-19 data obtained through scraping and APIs. An article in May 2020 revealed the fact that the total cases in emerging economies have surpassed that of the developed countries, and pointed out that the fragile medical systems in emerging economies pose a risk to the global economy.
Another story published in May 2020 examined the number of new cases in each of the U.S. states while comparing the mobility restrictions. The article had an impact on the decisions of the Japanese government, which was then considering lifting the state of emergency as well as reopening the economy.
In data journalism, Nikkei utilizes latest technologies. For example, in an article about Japanese convenience stores, data journalists in Nikkei used scraping to identify locations of the stores across the country. Nikkei discovered that many stores were not capable to maintain their 24/7 business hours and warned that there is a risk of excessive competition in the industry. Statistical analysis software such as Python were used to analyze these data.
To discover changes in trends before official statistics are announced, Nikkei actively used alternative data such as satellite images, traffic information, and restaurant reservations. In April 2020, when the price of crude oil fell to a record low, Nikkei utilized artificial intelligence to analyze satellite images of oil tanks around the world and discovered that the storage capacity would reach its limit in two months.
Nikkei also created charts and graphics so the story is easily understood on mobile phones, an increasing trend for subscribers to read articles.
Nikkei also developed a method to link the articles on newspapers and website by introducing an augmented reality system that allows subscribers to view videos on their smartphones.
What was the hardest part of this project?
Dozens of Nikkei staffs, including reporters, editors, designers and engineers, were involved in each article to report the data journalism articles. Coordinating the team which goes beyond the boundary of traditional journalism was the most difficult part, as well as publishing the stories every Sunday on the front page.
What can others learn from this project?
In order to focus in data analysis and maintain the quality in data journalism, it is essential to consolidate human resources as well as knowhow not only from traditional reports and editors but also from designers and engineers.