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Google Has a New Easy Way to Paint Pictures of Data

Journalists and other professionals who need to display data in an understandable way now have a new tool to do so.

Google on Thursday unveiled Data GIF Maker, an online tool designed to make it easier to display relative interest between two topics based on data gleaned from Google’s own Internet search trends or other data sources.

As explained in a blog post by Simon Rogers, a data editor at Google News Lab, reporters can build data GIFs—short graphical clips from animations and videos—based on Google Search Trends or other data sources.

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GIFs, which stands for Graphics Interchange Format, often pop up as the cat video clips that have invaded your Facebook (FB) and Twitter (TWTR) feeds. But they can be much more informational if used to illustrate simple data comparisons.

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To demonstrate relative search interest between two topics, reporters can use the Google Trends explore tool to get a figure representing average search interest over time in each topic. The users can then enter those numbers into the GIF maker, add some explanatory text for the each number, and hit a button to generate an exportable GIF that can be embedded in their stories.

In his blog, Rogers used a “Peanut Butter” versus “Jelly” comparison to illustrate the tool. Having a sweet tooth, we used “Vanilla” versus “Chocolate” and got this:


The tool easy to use and suits simple comparisons between just two terms. However, it does take some time to generate a high-resolution GIF. It’s likely Google will add the ability to compare more than two things going forward.

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Google (GOOG) is not alone in automating data-to-visual transformations. As VentureBeat pointed out, Infogram, now owned by Prezi, offers an editor to convert user data into publishable infographics.