Enhance Data Storytelling With Web Scraping

Hannah Benson
February 4, 2021
Community

data storytelling
All my life I’ve been obsessed with stories. Whether in novels, films, or music, storytelling connects with the deepest, most human parts of ourselves. After reading a great story, I always feel more connected to the world around me with a better sense of myself and others. While it may seem like storytelling is reserved for the writers and creatives of the world, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Data is at the forefront of innovation in most industries. By collecting massive amounts of data, businesses big and small can understand their role in the marketplace and the mindset of consumers. However, not everyone is built to analyze and comprehend data sets. Personally, I struggle to understand numbers and figures unless there is an overarching narrative. With data storytelling, you get the best of both worlds.

Data storytelling is a method of presenting data to your team that uses visuals and narratives to explain data sets. Communicating with your team in the context of a larger narrative makes it easier for you all to communicate, understand data, and make informed decisions. By adding web scraping techniques to your data extraction routine, your storytelling will be more in-depth and have more context than a spreadsheet full of numbers.

If you already know the basics of data storytelling, use the table of contents to jump ahead and discover how web scraping enhances your data collection.

Table of Contents

What is Storytelling with Data?

data storytelling definition

Data storytelling is the process of creating a narrative around a certain data set, explained using the data, a narrative, and visual components. Since some data is confusing for business people, even after being analyzed by professionals, framing data in a narrative context is useful for communication across teams and skillsets. The combination of data and storytelling makes it easier for employees that are less versed in comprehending numbers and figures to understand how a given data set relates to larger company goals and projects, helping unite you all in a shared goal. Importantly, employees in the past who were too unsure about their understanding of the data to contribute may feel more empowered once they have narrative and visual tools to welcome them into a dialogue.

How To Do Data Driven Storytelling

data storytelling examples

While there are programs built to create data storytelling examples, data analysts can also perform this work manually. As I mentioned before, the three components of data analysis storytelling are data, visuals, and narrative. When all three come together, you will find team communication increases and your team can spend more time on important decisions instead of trying to understand often confusing data sets. Below are tips for executing each step for storytelling with data.

Data

Data is the main component of data-driven storytelling since the data itself determines the narrative and visuals later used to explain it. For smaller businesses without the resources to create entire departments dedicated to data collection and analysis, web scraping is one of your most useful tools in this process. Web scraping is the automatic extraction of data from webpages which is then converted into a downloadable spreadsheet. While this still leaves you with the work of creating the visual and written-narrative about the data, web scraping saves you tons of time in the process and gives you all the information you need to draw from.

Visuals

As a freelance film critic and amateur photographer, I’ve always loved the power of images. Great photos can help you understand aspects of life that are beyond words and a great cinematographer knows how to visually represent the interior lives of characters. Unsurprisingly, visuals are a key component of data science storytelling. In the same way, journalists have charts and figures created to help readers understand data, you must use visuals to help your team understand data. Storytelling with data visualization can include charts, graphs, or even just graphics that visually categorize information. This is especially useful if your team consists of visually-oriented learners. If you have a small team, then you have the luxury of knowing everyone deeply enough to cater your data stories to fit individual learning styles. Even with different types of learners, having varied presentation styles of the same data helps it stick because all three components reinforce one another.

Narrative

Narrative is the core of data and storytelling. The narrative is what sets this process apart from regular data collection and analysis. While the term narrative might make you feel like you need some grand story, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The narrative in data storytelling examples simply helps explain the data in simple terms and how it connects with a company’s larger goals or vision.
The more creative your story is, the more effective it will be. However, just using common language to break down intimidating numbers for employees less versed in data analysis can help make basic concepts digestible. This helps avoid future confusion since employees will not be left on their own to understand data but instead guided through the process through the lens of company goals. Here is an example of how a researcher incorporated local, personal narratives into his data-driven research on food insecurity.

Benefits Of Storytelling With Data

data and storytelling benefits

There are many benefits to embracing data and storytelling. The goal of data storytelling is to help people understand data in the context of their job or goal. Below are other benefits of using the data-driven storytelling approach.

Data story is personalized to your needs

As mentioned before, the greatest benefit of data science storytelling is that you create a narrative that fits your company’s needs. By framing the narrative through your vision, goals, or shared mission, it will be immediately clear to everyone on the team why this data is important to understand and how it can be used in the future. When you simply send out spreadsheets full of numbers, it can be hard for employees to understand how the data relates to their specific position within a company. Data storytelling makes it clear to each team member what they should glean from a given data set.

Better communication company-wide

Not only does data analysis storytelling help you communicate the importance of data to your team, it helps them communicate with one another as well. For example, when I didn’t understand a math problem in school I usually stayed silent and tried to play along with those that did understand it. When presented with confusing data, employees may nod along throughout a presentation but fail to relay it back to their team members.
By using narrative and visual components to explain data, it helps team members communicate better since everyone is on the same page. Before, those with more data experience might’ve taken the lead in these scenarios while others stood by in confusion. Data storytelling ensures that all employees will be able to communicate effectively with you and amongst themselves due to the shared understanding that data and storytelling help foster.

Make better decisions

While it’s clear how important it is for everyone to understand data, you may be wondering what the next step is. The goal of storytelling with data is ultimately to make better, data-driven decisions. This first requires communal understanding which data storytelling creates. But once everyone is on the same page, the entire team is better equipped to make decisions based on the data presented to them, even if they previously found data too intimidating. Whether you are deciding which products to promote more, the perfect price point, or how to grow as a company, data storytelling helps everyone understand the data driving such changes, and employees are able to contribute more when you dedicate time to properly educating them on the purpose and lessons of the data you collect.

Incorporate Web Scraping Into Your Data Storytelling

data and storytelling benefits

Web scraping is the automatic process of extracting data from web pages. While many larger corporations have entire teams dedicated to collecting mass amounts of data, smaller businesses or individuals may struggle to afford such teams. Below are tips on how to use web scraping to extract data so that you have the material for data storytelling no matter your level of access.

Social media

For those new to collecting data, social media is a data goldmine. Not only are there many social media platforms, each one provides multiple data sets. For example, scraping a profile gives you information about an individual user’s followers and following accounts. But scraping a trending topic or keyword gives you insight into the conversation regarding a specific topic so that you better understand the consumer mindset. Read our blog about how to leverage the power of social media to your advantage.

Web pages

Web pages are great sources of data. URL scrapers make it easy to extract information from government sites full of public data to sports websites full of this season’s football statistics. This is particularly helpful if you are looking to collect diverse data sets across topics or industries.

Create a custom scraping solution

There are many one-size-fits-all modules for web scraping, but they can be limited in scope. Scraping Robot can help you create a custom scraping solution that fits your needs, no matter the size of your business. Custom scraping solutions increase the number of scrapes while still paying less per scrape, giving you the expertise and guidance of Scraping Robot’s team, and saving you time from having to manage and develop data all on your own. You are freed from one part of the process which gives you more time to craft your narrative and visuals. If a custom solution seems like a good fit for you and your business, contact us to get started.

Conclusion

data science storytelling

In a world increasingly motivated by data, it can be easy for those less versed in analyzing data sets to feel lost. Giving employees who work outside of data collection spreadsheets upon spreadsheets of data can make it hard for them to understand the numbers fully and how they relate to specific positions within a team. Data storytelling helps break these barriers of misunderstanding by ensuring the entire team understands data by presenting vital info in a visual and narrative form. Relatable storytelling techniques make communication with your team and amongst your team better and grounded in a common goal, which leads to better decision making all around.

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