SA journalist turned tech developer launches data visualisation tool

A new data visualisation tool called Vizall aims to help reporters find stories hidden in data, but the applications are wider reaching according to the co-founder who is a former journalist herself.

Apr 15, 2024, updated Apr 15, 2024
Cathryn McLauchlan has taken her journalist data skills and launched a new company called Vizall. Photo: Supplie.

Cathryn McLauchlan has taken her journalist data skills and launched a new company called Vizall. Photo: Supplie.

The Adelaide-based tech entrepreneur has launched an online tool that even the most data-averse journalists can use to help visualise stories hidden inside spreadsheets.

Co-founder Cathryn McLauchlan – a former News Corporation data journalist – started Vizall after developing the tool while working at the media company.

The early iteration of the tool was instrumental in helping visualise COVID-19 hotspots during the peak of the pandemic, she said, and turned location-based data into interactive maps for readers to better understand the spread of infection in their local area.

Eventually, McLachlan – who founded the company with husband Joshua – went on maternity leave and during that period she focused on improving the tool to turn it into a viable, public-facing website.

For McLauchlan, Vizall fills a gap she noticed in newsrooms: “There were plenty of journos who wanted to use more data to support their stories, but a clear lack of knowledge about how to do that”.

For time-poor reporters, the tool is simple; just drag and drop a spreadsheet into Vizall “and let the magic begin”, she said.

The site works out what data is in each type of column, fixes errors like spelling mistakes and data inconsistencies, and then points out outliers which McLauchlan said can help reporters excavate the best stories out of the data.

From there, Vizall can bring spreadsheets to life via interactive maps and searchable tables.

An example of a map created using Vizall. Photo: Supplied.

While developed initially for journalists, McLauchlan said other use cases could be for marketing experts or public relations professionals.

“Particular industries might be real estate as it uses a lot of location-based data, perhaps banking, councils and education,” she told InDaily.

The basic platform is free too, as long as you’re happy to have a Vizall watermark on the finished product. Paid tiers also exist, which the co-founder said was best suited for professionals and teams.

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McLauchlan said most of the team was already using Vizall and feedback had been great.

“They have been really excited about it and feedback from them has been they’re happy about not having to go to a designer to create maps for them, which can take days sometimes,” she said.

Ultimately, McLauchlan said her goal was to improve data literacy.

“We’re wanting to build up a community of people who are all starting at the same place, maybe they’re not good with numbers necessarily,” she said.

“But they want to be able to get more insights from data and tell them stories and ask questions and not feel dumb for any of those questions.

“The other part of Vizall is I’ve been doing data literacy coaching which is working with teams directly on basic skills.”

McLauchlan said data literacy would be “one of the most in-demand skills by 2030”

“I want to be part of helping people get to that point,” she said.

“My background is not such much on the numbers side but on the content side and understanding how to explain concepts in a way that’s not too statistics-heavy.

“Users don’t need to be data analysts, they just need to be able to interpret and have a basic understanding of what’s going on, how to read a chart. Where we’d like to go is in helping build people’s confidence with working with data.”

Find out more about Vizall here.

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