Data visualization and storytelling


Improving investigative stories through interactive visualization

How Finance Uncovered used Flourish to supercharge their reporting

“Flourish is such an intuitive data visualization tool. Starting out as a novice, I was able to play around and build roughly what we wanted to do by myself.”

Lionel Faull, Chief reporter

Finance Uncovered’s mission is to improve the quantity and quality of investigative stories that are rooted in illicit finance or exploitation by training and supporting journalists and activists around the world.

For their story about the prevalence of anonymously owned properties in the UK, they compiled 20+ years of market data and a plethora of property-specific information. Looking for a way to visualize this information in an informative way while still letting their readers find their own connections and unexpected trends, they turned to Flourish.

Exploration and explanation

Finance Uncovered got inspired by this story visualizing AirBnB rentals in Istanbul

Having come across an example of our 3D Map template about the jaw-dropping rise of AirBnB in Istanbul, the team at Finance Uncovered started thinking about options to visualize their story in a similar way. They were interested in combining the intuitive nature of the timeline with the interactive nature of the map and tying important points together through a guided narrative. The story broke down the distinction between data explanation and exploration, and inspired them to try something similar with their data. But how to proceed without their own graphics team?

Ease of updating

While researching and investigating their story, Finance Uncovered began to collate several datasets from different sources to support their story. Between house prices, police investigations and foreign company data, their resolve to present their story graphically grew stronger.

They applied for a newsrooms plan through our collaboration with Google News Lab and began experimenting with different templates.

“We were really excited about the prospect of presenting our findings graphically, but weren't confident we had the tools or know-how to do it. Flourish showed exactly how.”

Simon Bowers, Investigations editor

As their complex dataset around 233 properties grew, they made use of our Live CSV feature to make sure any updates to a collaborative Google Sheet were automatically fed through to their visualizations and their map displayed the correct data at any point without having to manually adjust the map. This allowed them to focus on their custom popups, timeline and animation settings as well as questions around zoom limits and viewports to avoid distracting from the narrative.

Building the story

Using a Flourish story, the Finance Uncovered team combined different views of their 3D Map with basic slides and custom captions to create their narrative.

Focusing on specific areas and periods of time in each slide, they were able to highlight different aspects and connections in their complex story. Telling the story in chunks helped them ensure a clear focus in their narrative.

If a certain slide piqued the interest of their readers and they wanted to know more, they could continue their own investigation, panning around the map and moving the slider through time, exploring the properties. And if they got stuck, they could return to the defined position through the story navigation.

Measuring success

Through publishing their story, Finance Uncovered noticed a spike in engagement on their website and their socials. For a newsroom of their size, this success was previously unimaginable – especially without hiring a specialist to create their visuals.

“This opened up deeper storytelling opportunities than we had ever imagined. We were able to show so much more relevant information than we ever could before.”

Simon Bowers, Investigations editor

You can check out Finance Uncovered’s full story here.

Have you created a project using Flourish for your publication or organization and are interested in being featured in a customer story? Get in touch!