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Visualizing Data: How the Media Blows Things Out of Proportion

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Visualizing Data: How the Media Blows Things Out of Proportion

Visualizing Data: How the Media Blows Things Out of Proportion

Every year, it seems that there is a new type of virus or an imminent technological disaster that will purportedly threaten the existence of humankind.

If it wasn’t the Y2K apocalypse that would bring society back to the Stone Age, it was going to be the bird flu or cellphone brain tumors that would kill us all.

However, as today’s data visualization from Information is Beautiful shows, these fears are mostly overblown. The media finds a way to tap into these hot-button issues and then people inevitably get worked into a frenzy.

“Swine flu”, which broke out in the U.S. in 2009, blew up into a full-on panic by media and authorities. While it did eventually kill about 12,000 people, that’s not very remarkable when it turns out that the common seasonal flu kills between 3,000 to 49,000 people each year, according to the Center for Disease Control.

The public consumed information on the swine flu like there was no tomorrow. Here’s Google searches for “swine flu” surpassing the amount of searches for the newly-elected “Barack Obama”:

But do you know what was even worse than swine flu? Ebola, of course.

In the very first chart on this post, the true length of the data for “ebola” is cut off because the series is literally off the chart. Here’s a revised version that puts all of the data in full perspective:
Ebola vs. all else

Based on this level of coverage and interest, the virus must have surely been on the level of the Black Plague, right?

According to The Economist, there were just 28,637 ebola cases and 11,315 deaths worldwide. The World Health Organization officially declared the outbreak to be over in January, and there hasn’t been a trace of the virus since.

Next time the talking heads on television are discussing the newest global distraction, take a deep breath. There’s no need to panic if mountains are being made out of molehills.

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Demographics

Visualizing 200 Years of U.S. Population Density

This animation shows the population density of U.S. counties between 1790 and 2010, showing the westward expansion of the country’s population.

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Visualizing 200 Years of U.S. Population Density

At the moment, there are around 326 million people living in the United States, a country that’s 3.5 million square miles (9.8 million sq km) in land area.

But throughout the nation’s history, neither of these numbers have stayed constant.

Not only did the population boom as a result of births and immigrants, but the borders of the country kept changing as well – especially in the country’s early years as settlers moved westwards.

U.S. Population Density Over Time

From a big picture perspective, here is how population density has changed for the country as a whole over the last 200 years or so:

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But today’s animated map, which comes to us from Vivid Maps, takes things a step further.

It plots U.S. population density numbers over the time period of 1790-2010 based on U.S. Census data and Jonathan Schroeder’s county-level decadal estimates for population. In essence, it gives a more precise view of who moved where and when over the course of the nation’s history.

Note: While U.S. Census data is granular and dates back to 1790, it comes with certain limitations. One obvious drawback, for example, is that such data is not able to properly account for Native American populations.

“Go West, Young Man”

As you might notice in the animation, there is one anomaly that appears in the late-1800s: the area around modern-day Oklahoma is colored in, but the state itself is an “empty gap” on the map.

The reason for this? The area was originally designated as Indian Territory – land reserved for the forced re-settlement of Native Americans. However, in 1889, the land was opened up to a massive land rush, and approximately 50,000 pioneers lined up to grab a piece of the two million acres (8,000 km²) opened for settlement.

While settlers flocking to Oklahoma is one specific event that ties into this animation, really the map shows the history of a much broader land rush in general: Manifest Destiny.

You can see pioneers landing in Louisiana in the early 1800s, the first settlements in California and Oregon, and the gradual filling up of the states in the middle of the country.

By the mid-20th century, the distribution of the population starts to resemble that of modern America.

Population Density Today

The average population density in the U.S. is now 92 people per square mile, although this changes dramatically based on where you are located:

If you are in Alaska, the state with the lowest population density, there is just one person per square mile – but if you’re in New York City there are 27,000 people per square mile, the highest of any major city in the country.

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Misc

The Top Earning Celebrities, Dead and Alive

Celebrity status can be a powerful tool for building a fortune. These infographics visualize the world’s top earning celebrities, both living and dead.

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Wealth does not always follow fame, but when properly monetized, stardom can be a powerful tool for building a fortune.

The act of turning one’s self into a marketing machine is epitomized by 21-year-old Kylie Jenner, who was the fourth highest earning celebrity in 2018. Leveraging her massive social media following, Jenner has turned Kylie Cosmetics into a force to be reckoned with. Recently, Forbes valued her company at over $900 million.

Today, we look at not only the world’s top earning living celebrities, but also the estates of the celebrities who are no longer with us as well.

Fame and Fortune

With a nickname like “Money”, it comes as no surprise that 2018’s top earning celebrity was Floyd Mayweather. The boxer’s bouts in 2015 and 2017 are still the top earning pay-per-view fights of all time, with the respective payouts propelling him to the top of the celebrity earnings list. His most recent opponent – Conor McGregor – also cashed in big, ranking 12th on the celebrity rich list.

Here is a full look at last year’s top earning celebrities:

top earning celebrities
View a high resolution version of this graphic.

Many celebrities earn big sums of money on specific contracts, so it makes sense that the top 10 shuffles a lot from year to year. Despite this, soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo is the sole celebrity to remain on this list for every year covered by the visualization.

Ed Sheeran’s Divide album was a runaway success earning him $110 million last year. Not only did the singer sell 1.1 million albums – an impressive feat in the digital age – he was the most streamed artist of 2017.

One somewhat surprising entry into the top 10 is Judy Sheindlin – better known as Judge Judy. Sheindlin reaped a huge windfall after selling her extensive 5,200-episode library to CBS.

Posthumous Profits

Some celebrities are so iconic that their influence extends well beyond their own lifespan.

Michael Jackson’s music is still thrilling listeners around the world, and as a result, his catalog is raking in the posthumous profits. In 2018, the late singer’s estate earned more money than any living celebrity, adding to the $2 billion already amassed since his passing in 2009.

Below is a full look at the top earning dead celebrities:

top earning dead celebrities
View a high resolution version of this graphic.

For the first time since 2006, Albert Einstein has fallen out of the top 10. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem owns the rights to Einstein’s likeness, and in the aughts the “Baby Einstein” brand helped them (and Disney) amass a fortune. The popularity of the Baby Einstein brand is waning, but other licencing deals could bump the famous physicist back into the list at some point in the future.

No Business Like Show Business

Even celebrities who passed away decades ago can continue earning a shocking amount of money. While income streams like song royalties continue rolling in automatically, some savvy companies purchase estates from family members and take the marketing of deceased personalities to the next level.

Companies like Authentic Brands Group, have turned timeless icons like Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley into full-fledged brands generating tens of millions of dollars per year through licencing and royalties.

Artists like Bob Marley and Dr. Seuss produced a body of work that still captures our imaginations today, so it makes sense that their estates continue to profit as time goes on.

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