The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
The Texas Tribune has figured out one way to draw and keep readers on their site. The state-focused news source publishes on average one database a week. Combined, the data pages get two and a half times the traffic of the narrative journalism pages, helping to draw the 200,000 unique monthly visitors to their site.
Topics vary. But the most popular one provides salary information for the more than 600,000 public employees of the state government.' The site also has a directory of the 160,000 inmates in Texas prisons including their names and crimes and a database for red-light cameras, with maps and statistics about revenue earned at each intersection.
In a similar vein, Sunlight Foundation also publishes data for the public, using new technology to make the information accessible.' In the run up to the November elections, their creation PolitiWidgets allows any blogger or website to include a widget that graphically displays information on any lawmaker in a number of different ways.
Transparency Data, another Sunlight application in beta testing, provides information on federal fiscal transactions like candidate campaign contributions and federal agency contracts awarded.
Likewise, the National Security Archive at The George Washington University 'collects and publishes declassified documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act' among other publicly available sources, making government data easily available to the public.
While news audiences clearly have an appetite for raw government data and apps that make it useful, The Texas Tribune has demonstrated that usable databases enhance website traffic and the number of return visitors.