At my previous job with the PBS series Frontline, my colleague Sam Bailey and I wanted to answer a couple of questions about Rupert Murdoch's media empire: How, exactly, does News Corp. make its money? And has this changed over time? The answers, we were hoping, might help our readers better understand how Murdoch's beloved, hack-riddled broadsheets fit into the rest of his organization.
So Sam pulled together some pretty dry-looking data from a decade of News Corp. annual reports to create this animated treemap. It tells the story of the company's financial priorities and evolution better than a few hundred words or pages of tables ever could (click on the rectangles between FY 2002 and 2011 for speedier viewing):
It's visual evidence that, indeed, the massive organization had become "a sports and entertainment company with a newspaper problem." Whether or not this is good business strategy wasn't necessarily up to us to decide; however, it laid the pure economics of it out in an easy-to-grasp story. What's more, the simple animated transitions helped bring to life year-over-year fluctuations of the various groups' performance in a way that static snapshots of the data could not.
While building this was, for us, a journalistic endeavor, this doesn't mean you can't use a treemap to analyze own financial or digital trends over time. Not only can it call attention what you might otherwise have missed; it's also a powerful narrative device for presenting information to others.
An HBR Insight Center