Since 2015, the Google News Lab team has been working on making Google’s massive trove of Search data accessible to newsrooms—with a data viz storytelling series, for example, or their excellent Year In Search recap. Today, the team released a tool that allows journalists (and anyone else) to synthesize the Search data themselves—in the form of lively GIFs.
The tool, appropriately called Data GIF Maker, is super simple to use. First, dig into Google’s Search data using the Google Trends explore tool—also a product of Google News Lab—which lets you search for two terms over a length of time (30 days, 12 months, or five years) and compare the Search data.
The tool will pull up an average number of searches over time for each of the two topics. Bring that information back to the GIF Maker and plug in the search terms, the values, and an explanatory title for your GIF. Hit “Launch GIF” to see it, and “Download GIF” to save.
It will look a bit like this:
And come out something like this:
The tool isn’t limited to Search data—you can make a data GIF for any piece of data, be it poll numbers, employee feedback, personal expenditures, hours spent watching Master of None vs. doing anything else, or the number of times Trump obstructs justice per week. It’s an exceedingly simple tool to make an exceedingly simple data viz, without any special skills.
The tool also points toward an important inflection point in data journalism right now. As Simon Rogers, the data editor at Google News Lab, points out on the team’s blog, data journalism has had to adapt to accommodate the fact that more people than ever are consuming news on their mobile devices. This means that data visualizations don’t always need to be extremely complex or even impressively interactive—more often than not, they need to look good on a small phone screen and be understandable at a glance, particularly for people reading quick news on the go. While there’s a time and place for interactive visualizations that dig deep into data sets and show interesting variations for different variables, there’s also a time and place for quick, clear, concise graphs.
The data GIFs are a clever, engaging example of the latter scenario, and now the team has opened it up to newsrooms. It’s a bonus that the tool is also accessible for anyone to use—give it a try here.