The welcome comeback of the image

The internet saved our culture of writing, it has often been claimed. The image saturation caused by television had, in this narrative, reached dangerous levels by the mid 1990s. Enter the commercial internet with email and the web. At the latest with web 2.0, everyone is writing all the time. Hurrah!

People like David McCandless bring a fresh approach to question this now received wisdom. By visualising data instead of just referring to them in text, modern infographics can be more enlightening than acres of text, not less:

I’ve spent the last year exploring the potential of information visualisation for my website and a book. I’ve taken loads of information and made it into simple, colourful and, hopefully, beautiful “visualisations” – bubble charts, concept maps, blueprints and diagrams – all with the minimum of text. I don’t just mean data and statistics. I love doing this with all kinds of information – ideas, issues, stories – and for all subjects from pop to philosophy to politics. Personally, I find visualisations great for helping me understand the world and for sifting the huge amounts of information that deluge me every day.

More of his visualisations can be enjoyed at his Flickr page.

Information and data visualisation has come to seem increasingly important to me as I in the past few months have spent a lot of time on the topic of opening up data in government (project blog in Norwegian). Clearly, it’s possible to do harm with data, as it is with all kinds of information. But the solution in an open society cannot be to lock down government data. That’s why it’s so important to have an ongoing discussion about how data can be used to promote better understanding of society, like McCandless does with his infographics. That he helps to improve journalism at the same time, isn’t actually a drawback these days.


Das Altpapier survives Netzeitung — who would have thought that? Today, punctual as ever with the commented overview of the media coverage of Netzeitung’s end. And with a logical conclusion:

Vielleicht musste die Netzeitung zu oft mitwandern, war zu oft Anhängsel und durfte sich zu wenig selbst bewegen, um sich als printzeitungsunabhängiges und rentables Onlineangebot etablieren zu können. Dabei hatte es an einer Wegmarke 2001 nicht so schlecht dafür ausgesehen: Damals, im November, gehörte die Netzeitung, direkt hinter Spiegel Online und noch vor, zu den meistbesuchten Onlinenachrichtenseiten.

And in Netzeitung itself, the story “Aus für die Netzeitung” has disappeared from the media page, though it is still to be found in the archive.

UPDATE: Taz obit.



I registered the domain name on October 5, 1999. So although the website wasn’t launched before a year later (soft launch in September for the Olympics, official launch November 8), in a way you can say that Germany’s first online-only newspaper just managed to reach the 10-year mark. It looks like the current owner M. DuMont Schauberg will keep the domain name, but the website as journalistic product will be history from January 1, 2010. The press release, for the record:

Aus wirtschaftlichen Gründen wird das bisherige Konzept einer Internetzeitung mit eigener Redaktion zum 31. Dezember 2009 aufgegeben. Aus diesem Grund wird sämtlichen Mitarbeitern in Kürze betriebsbedingt gekündigt werden. Bestehende vertragliche Verpflichtungen der Internetzeitung werden noch im 1. Quartal 2010 erfüllt. Es wird geplant, zukünftig die Netzeitung als automatisiertes Nachrichtenportal zu nutzen. Die NZ-Teletextaktivitäten sind davon unberührt und sollen in Zukunft eine stärkere Rolle in der Gruppe spielen. Wir bedauern die für die Mitarbeiter mit der Entscheidung verbundenen Härten. In der derzeitigen Form ist die Internetzeitung wirtschaftlich aber nicht zu betreiben.

I wonder if being “automated” is almost worse than just being closed. A fitting irony: The news reached me via the “automated” news and social media site Rivva.

Obits at Carta and I guess there will be more. But I have some nicer reading for you: Spiegel’s story “News and more” from the heydays in 2000. And here’s the list of my own blog posts mentioning