How to Make a Data Story Interesting

Familiar information is boring. Readers skim it at best, and ignore it at worst. But unfamiliar information is boring too. Readers lack the context to understand it, so they skip it.

To engage with a reader, you need to hit that sweet spot where a reader knows a little about a subject and has some preconceptions, but not enough to make them skim it or skip it.

That's a narrow window. But it can be widened with a specific approach, summarised well by Murray Davis in 1971 in the following mnemonic:

You probably think this, but it's actually not true. Here's the proof and here's why it matters to you.

This simple framing primes your audience to expect something interesting and relevant to them. By challenging their preconceptions, and promising a new look at a familiar topic, it opens their minds enough for you to get some information inside.

(via RJ Andrews' Info We Trust)