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The New York Times launched its political and economic analysis blog The Upshot Tuesday, jumping into the crowded pool of media outlets offering data-driven news sites.

Edited by former Washington, D.C. bureau chief David Leonhardt, The Upshot is the latest Times' online editorial offering and is partly aimed at replacing Nate Silver's popular FiveThirtyEight blog.

"You have no shortage of excellent news sources," wrote Leonhardt on the blog Tuesday. "We believe many people don't understand the news as well as they would like."

"We believe we can help readers get to that level of understanding by writing in a direct, plain-spoken way, the same voice we might use when writing an email to a friend. We'll be conversational without being dumbed down," he said.

The launch follows other similar efforts by competitors that are interested in providing sharper analysis and data-embedded stories. Data-centric journalism has become trendy in American newsrooms in recent months as news organizations seek product differentiation through technology and social media. The software applications used to process data and illustrate results in charts, quizzes and maps are cheaper, if not free online. And branded blogs are seen as an efficient means to post stories quickly to dedicated audiences to generate greater web traffic.

Silver, who gained notoriety by employing his statistical analysis to accurately predict President Obama's victory in the 2008 and 2012 elections, ended his contract-based association with the Times last year and sold his blog brand -- FiveThirtyEight.com -- to ESPN. With the sports cable network's financial backing, FiveThirtyEight.com was launched last month after months of preparation and recruiting.

Ezra Klein, a former Washington Post policy blogger, joined Vox Media and launched the company's first general news site, Vox.com, earlier this month. It was designed as an explanatory site that aims to make news more digestible by incorporating data and graphics.

The Washington Post plans to replace Klein's work with several initiatives, including a new economics blog by reporter Jim Tankersley.

Leonhardt said The Upshot will focus particularly on "unearthing" new data and working with the Times' graphics department to present them in ways that are easier to read. He said he will also solicit story ideas directly from readers.

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