We’re hiring for Polygraph, our in-house brand creative agency.
The Pudding’s in-house brand creative agency, Polygraph, is hiring a full-time creative technologist and interactive story developer (the official title is Journalist-Engineer) to work on client projects. The role is to work with other organizations to tell visual, data-led stories, which you’ll design and code. While journalism experience might be helpful, it’s not required by any means; we’re seeking candidates from many domains, including data visualization, front-end development, and graphic design.
The vision of The Pudding is to explain ideas debated in culture that are too complex for prose. Some of the most debated topics get lost in “too long; didn’t read” 10,000-word articles. Visual storytelling makes ideas more accessible—or so goes the adage “a picture is worth a thousand words.” By wielding original datasets, primary research, and interactivity, we try to thoroughly explore complex ideas.
The way we primarily fund the The Pudding, today, is by working with brands (showing up as Polygraph to clearly delineate client-funded work), which historically involved 25%-50% of each team member’s time (the rest devoted to editorial on The Pudding). Long-term, our funding models might change, including grants, advertising, or raising capital. But for now, we’ll be experimenting in 2020 with allocating team members exclusively to editorial or brand studio work, and this role—the one we’re hiring for—will be the first studio-dedicated role.
The mission of Polygraph (the studio effort) is to collaborate with external organizations on high-margin, meaningful work that funds The Pudding. You’ll take the Pudding’s data and storytelling instincts, and layer them over brands’ strategy and goals. This role has never existed as a full-time position before—you’ll be the first team member with 100% dedicated time towards delivering on this mission.
You should be excited about working with other organizations, often to execute on ideas that wouldn’t be possible without their participation on the project. Such as this analysis of slang using Google Search data. Or this breakdown of newsroom diversity with the American Society of News Editors. Or this analysis of tropes in film with Viacom. Or this installation in Universal Music Group’s lobby of their streaming data. Occasionally these projects live on our editorial publication The Pudding as sponsored content, such as a tool that sorts Congress’s tweets using a Salesforce API. Or this analysis of the Dear Abby catalogue with IBM’s Watson.
We realize that our collective voice is made stronger by our individual voices. We are committed to building a diverse, inclusive team that represents a variety of backgrounds, perspectives and skills.
You’ll work alongside a team that, in three years, has won a Peabody for digital journalism, SND Gold, Data journalism site of the year, and General Excellence at the Online Journalism Awards. The brand studio, Polygraph, has also won Studio of the Year from Information is Beautiful Awards.
What you’ll be doing
Here are some things that you might find yourself doing—real things we’ve done in the past:
- Propose a list of visual stories to a national museum, who have approached us with a proposition to create visual stories with their data.
- Immerse yourself in punk forums in search of highly debated questions about the genre. Codify those ideas into a doc that will be pitched to a shoe brand for a data-essay.
- Scrape data from IMDB on movie and TV show tags to see whether certain cultural tropes have increased or decreased over time.
- Analyze a data dump of tens of thousands of Kickstarter projects for trends in geography and project category.
- Manage a release deadline with a client, prioritizing tasks and deciding when to show work-in-progress versions of your design/code.
- Present several visualization styles for an interactive essay that demonstrates the growth of a YouTube video’s viewership over time.
- Mock up a three options for charts/interfaces that communicates a dataset describing elected officials’ voting records (and incorporate feedback once they review it).
- Transform a whitepaper PDF—one that’s written by a research firm and likely will never be read— into a reader-friendly, interactive essay
- Storyboard a visualization of streaming music data that will loop on a 30 ft. screen in a record label’s lobby.
- Turn a flat mock-up image into an interactive, functioning story for desktop and mobile.
- Web design for mobile/desktop (we use a multitude of programs, so we’re looking more for portfolio vs. specific software)
- Data analysis (perhaps in pandas, R)
You should have experience doing all of these things well, but we know that you’ll shine in some areas more than others.
The most important thing: we expect that you can turn an idea into a well-designed, coded visual story, and you’ve done it enough that it’s second nature to you. You don’t just have the capacity and potential to do it—you also have a portfolio that demonstrates it. We also recognize that no one does everything equally well; we’ll help you in areas where you know you’re looking to grow.
This role requires a high degree of self-direction and autonomy, but you’re not a lone wolf; you thrive in a team dynamic and have balanced the needs of multiple stakeholders on a project.
We’re not looking for someone who has felt constrained in previous roles, seeking space from daily duties to do their own thing. Your project pipeline is very much determined by external forces. You don’t have an ego about your work—people will require changes that you don’t agree with, and you’ll have to be cool with that knowing that, sometimes, the project-creation journey is just as important as the outcome.
Today, studio work is the primary financial driver for The Pudding. It is critical that the quality of stories we’re creating with brands is commensurate with the quality of our editorial content. You’ll need to strike a balance between delivering meaningful work and embracing our partner’s objectives—i.e., a client-service mindset.
Some of the reasons why you might like it here:
- This is a making-it-up-as-we-go, building-the-plane-in-the-air type of organization. Look to us if you want a small, startup feel that’s buzzing with possibility. This is different than other organizations that have hierarchies and an established "how-we-do-things," decades-old process.
- You want to be involved in building something new. Plenty of energy goes into perfecting a creative process that's still in its infancy. As part of a small team, your opinion matters a lot.
- You're over making noise. You’ll work on projects that don't live and die by the news cycle. You want your work to have a multi-year lifespan.
- Craft matters. We are building tools that make visual storytelling easier. Yet instead of making something for everyone, our tools begin with one group of users: ourselves. Building for general consumer adoption is a noble pursuit, but there’s something special that happens when a toolmaker builds something for their own creative ambitions.
- Our team operates with less hierarchy than most organizations. We use a rough version of holacracy, a form of decentralized governance where responsibility is dispersed among the team, while also elevating consent over consensus (some things are still consensus-driven, like changing the company name). It’s not perfect (and creates more chaos than in a typical top-down, goal-led organization), but it gives each member of the team a lot of leverage and input over every aspect of the organization.
- We’re invested in building community knowledge for the craft of visual storytelling. Team members have published libraries for scrollytelling and R analysis. Most of our editorial output includes public code and datasets.
- We aim to emphasize equity and inclusion in all that we do, including open hiring, sensitivity readers, and inclusive HR policies.
This role’s compensation is $82K to $110K, depending on experience (and this doesn’t depend on your location). Our team offers health and dental insurance, 4 weeks of vacation, 16 weeks of parental leave, 401K (with 4% matching), and a $2,000 annual conference/learning budget.
This role is remote friendly (but your workday should overlap at least 4 hours a day with Eastern Time Zone). If you’re worried you’re not qualified, we encourage you to take the leap and apply anyway—the application entails links to public-facing projects without any lengthy writing requirements.
The Pudding is an equal opportunity workplace and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, political affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, pregnancy, disability, genetic information, age, membership in an employee organization, retaliation, parental status, military service, or other non-merit factor.
Ready to apply? Check out our application here. We will begin reviewing applications on Oct 29, 2019, so try to apply before then. Afterwards, applications will be reviewed on an on-going basis, though we expect to fill the position by December 2019.