LocalFocus brings data journalism to small newsrooms

02 June 2016

Hakeem Muhammad

JelleMake data journalism available to small newsrooms that cannot afford a data team is what LocalFocus does on a daily basis. It is a data management and visualisation platform created by a team based in Amsterdam that is already used by most of newsrooms in the Netherlands. LocalFocus participated in the Nos Editors Lab in Amsterdam in April 2015. They also were featured in the 2016 Startups for News pitch battles.

We talked with one of the co-founders, Jella Kamsma, about what happened after the Editors Lab and how they are trying to export their platform abroad in Europe and in the rest of the world.

What happened after the Editors Lab?

The most important result that came out from the Editors Lab, was that we developed our widget API. That made possible for people to manipulate the visualisations that we had made with our platform in many different ways. During the Lab, we also focused a lot on automatic geolocation: so if you watch a graph or a visualisation from a certain location it would adapt the chart for that location.

After, we also developed a new bunch of other features, that are now available for our users, like night/day mode, so for example if you watch their page during the night you get a different, darker background than when you watch a visualisation during the day [here is an example]. After the Editors Lab we also open sourced the widget API and the code that went along with it, and we wrote a documentation on GitHub, so that other developers could use it.

LocalfocuswidgetapiLocalFocus widget API

How many people worked on the project after the Editors Lab ended?

We have one developer who is constantly making new functionalities, we are now looking for more people to help us, especially with the back end. 

One year has passed since the Editors Lab. What have been the milestones of this past year?

I can think about a couple of things. The first one is that we got a lot of more news organisations using our platform, so most major news publication in the Netherlands are using our tool and that was important for us. The second thing, more focused on new functionality, has been that we developed our news map function which makes it even easier to visualise geographical data. At this link you can find an example of what you can do with this new functionality.

Localfocus2Example of news map

What's next?

In terms of development, we are still focusing on the news map: we launched that a couple of months ago and we have still a lot of ideas for it, like automatic geocoding. Or the recently released possibility of using maps as full vector images for print: users can now import those images in Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape.

Also we would like to see our tool being used in other countries. Now we finally have an English version of our platform and we are looking for ways to make that step abroad. This is also why we participated in the Startups for News battle.

Localfocus1The English version of Local Focus 

What has been your audience's reaction?

The audience’s reaction has pretty good, we see dozen of graphs and visualisation being made everyday with our platform. This means that a lot of people are seeing our product. Also we got good press coverage in the Netherlands and that helped. Now we are looking for more coverage abroad.

Localfocus4Some of the charts that were created with Local Focus

How did the Editors Lab help you?

On one hand, it was really nice to have a day that was focused specifically on this feature. On the other hand it was nice to see what other people were working on. It was especially good for networking: a lot of new media who weren't using our tool were present that day and so we got some contacts that we could develop further afterwards.