Government data as a platform for innovation is something I find exciting. Unfortunately, every time we write about it at ReadWriteWeb, very few people read our articles. Consumer data from private companies, be it Facebook, Twitter or Foursquare, for example, finds far more interested readers.
Both have a few things in common: they are stories about data that you and I produce being leveraged by independent developers to build new services and ways to make use of that data. I love EveryBlock and the way it shows me the 911 calls, restaurant reviews and news stories about the area I live in. It uses mostly government data. I really liked the story I wrote about it (“The Day Everyblock Came to Town“) but it got far fewer pageviews than the equally local story Boom! Tweets & Maps Swarm to Pinpoint a Mysterious Explosion.
Maybe that’s because it was about an explosion, and maybe because it indicated some fulfillment of the promise of data exploited. But I think it’s in part because it’s about Twitter data instead of about public data in the traditional sense of the word. Readers just don’t find government data very interesting. It’s a part of a larger problem I think: people don’t care about nonprofit or social good stories either. Far, far fewer people read stories about human rights, watchdog organizations, etc. than they do the big corporate market leaders online. We cover social good stuff anyway, because it’s important, but we always recognize that those stories are going to perform poorly in terms of readership.