In a new article published in Fast Company, Deb Smit, associate editor at NEXTpittsburgh, writes that 2014 is the year of the explainer, websites that present us with the answers we seek on many topics in a few clicks. We have Nate Silver at ESPN telling us where to get the country’s best burrito, mapping out the U.S. Postal Service in 9 easy steps, and The Upshot, a project of the New York Times, laying out flood risks due to climate change, country by country.

It appears we’re itching for more information about, well…just about everything. But not only that, we want to see and understand the process behind the statistics. This, Smit says, is where Pittsburgh is a step ahead of the game.

Luke Skurman’s began as a paperback book for high school seniors trying to find the perfect college, a publication called College Prowler. From a hard copy, the information became, which eventually morphed into what we now know as Niche.

The difference between the other “explainer sites” and Niche, is that “While the news explainers succeed in getting their stories shared, their offline influences are hard to spot: Some people line up around the block for burritos here, a Facebook product director erupts in frustrations at their headlines there, and that’s about it. In contrast, Niche mixes its data with a people power not unlike Twitter’s, and in the process the site guides hundreds of thousands of people through some of the biggest decisions of their lives.”

Since acquiring success with their college guides, Niche has expanded to include “K-12, college, the home-and-community choice, and employers.” Niche has also recently launched Niche Local, which supplies data for 80 major metropolitan areas and ranks them according to housing, income, crime rates, demographics, and weather. And they aren’t stopping there. Smit writes, “Next up: Niche Company, which will focus on compensation packages, working environments, and employee feedback.”

Skurman says their mission is to stand out from other explainer sites by increasing the quality of the user experience. He hopes that Niche’s different branches will all interlock, “The most popular communities to live, for example, will tie into where residents of that community tend to work; the best colleges will show where those students went to high school,” writes Smit. 

You can read the full article here.

Rebekah Zook

Rebekah Zook is a Duquesne grad and all-around story-telling enthusiast. A former fellow at WESA, she worked as a production assistant for their daily talk show. Most recently, she taught in the Propel...