Old School Data Visualisation (Part 2)

A quick follow-up to the previous post on the power of data reduction and presentation… here is another example showing how rounding, ordering and thoughtful presentation can turn an incomprehensible grid of numbers into something most people can grok.

It is from the same article (Ehrenberg, Feb 1992, The Problem of Numeracy, AdMap), but this time relates to television programme viewership.  The first table presents detailed correlations for responses to the question ‘I really like to watch programme x‘ across a range of programmes and two channels (ITV and BBC).

Apart from an obvious diagonal line of 1.000 in the table (of course each programmes’ rating correlates perfectly with itself), there isn’t much else you can take out from it.  The next table renders the data a little more readable by introducing rounding to one decimal place, discarding the redundant leading zeros and disposing of the meaningless 1.000 diagonal.

And with a little more thought to row order, spacing and the key data for presentation (i.e., do we really need channel?), we get to the following:

Those familiar with television in the UK will now see that people who like to watch one sport programme also like to watch other sports programmes, particularly if they are ’round up’ type shows.  They don’t, however, like news or current events programmes so much.  A similar pattern occurs for current event watchers, but the programmes within that cluster have slightly lower correlations, meaning viewership is less likely to be homogeneous amongst that group.  If you are an advertiser or producer, this is useful stuff to know because it will give you an idea of the reach of, and competition around, a certain programme.  And you are more likely to understand this if the data is presented in a clear and concise way.

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