The Pudding is a digital publication that explains ideas debated in culture with visual essays.
Visual essays are an emerging form of journalism. Some of the most complex, debated topics get lost in “too long; didn’t read” 10,000-word articles. Visual storytelling makes ideas more accessible. At The Pudding, our goal is to advance public discourse and avoid media echo chambers. We’re not chasing current events or clickbait. We choose topics where visuals both entertain and inform. This means that we invest in research and ignore news cycle noise.
What makes this project innovative?
We’re six full-time journalist-engineers who operate as a collective rather than hierarchical team. Much of our work is done autonomously, with individuals choosing their essays and owning the whole story, from research to code. Each team member can do every step: research and reporting, data analysis, design, writing, and code. One luxury that separates us from traditional newsrooms is our approach to publishing urgency. There are no deadlines because we are not tied to news events. With breaking news, it’s difficult to gamble on weird, ambitious ideas if they must be published. No one will take on risky, creative projects when they’re staring at a deadline. So we experiment, a lot. The creative process feels more like workshopping a movie script than critiquing a bar chart. Consequently, many of our ideas are killed during production, but we wouldn’t have it any other way! It means we’re trying unproven, never-done-before things. We’re also trying to advance the craft. Visual journalism is still in its infancy. We don’t have an established pattern language found in traditional reporting. Sometimes we’ll attempt an unfamiliar visual approach—not because it’s guaranteed to work, but because we won’t know until we try. Rarely do organizations have the liberty take such risks, yet we’re small enough to experiment in the pursuit of quality.
What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?
Each visual essay is its own bespoke beast, which means how we define success can change. When we revamped our website in February 2019, we included tags in our "Greatest Hits" section that get at these different measurements: - "Most Buzzworthy" applies to stories that are the most shared and liked on social media. - "Most Engaging" means that the audience spends more time on the page. - "Most Viewed" takes into account the total number of visitors.
Source and methodology
Each visual essay has a unique methodology that is included at the bottom of the piece. All of our code is accesible on github (https://github.com/the-pudding) and we make as much of the data available as we can (https://github.com/the-pudding/data).
Ilia Blinderman, Matt Daniels, Russell Goldenberg, Caitlyn Ralph, Amber Thomas