Big data is the latest buzz word in publishing, so it seems like an interesting issue to explore. Lots of new publishing related companies using data are springing up, such as Booklr, Hiptype, and Write or Read.
Big Data and Little Data
EMediaVitals wrote that “Big data is the result of a huge spike in connected devices – everything from cell phones to utility meters to global positioning satellites to smart appliances – combined with inexpensive storage and broadband communications [...] IBM says 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years.”
According to Frank Cutitta, CEO of the Center for Global Branding on EMediaVitals, “Big data is the qual card of the future. There’s utility and revenue in that if you know how to leverage it.” Basically, the key is to figure out a strategy based on the large amounts of data collected on people’s reading habits, demographics, and other information. This could affect marketing and content development, among other things.
EMediaVitals also talks about “little data,” which journalists and others can use to focus on particular points. An example of little data are visual infographics people create on Visual.ly and pin to Pinterest.
Using data transforms something abstract into something everyone can understand and relate to,
Data journalism is not so much an entirely new discipline as it is a new way to tell stories.
data is not limited to numbers on a spreadsheet.
But how do you use data to make money? EMediaVitals suggests building up your brand by creating content users value (based on relevant data), and then getting advertising. This is how many websites and magazines work, but the difference may be tailoring your content based on your audience’s needs, which you can figure out from data, instead of making educated guesses. Publishers can also track the way people interact with devices and create content that appeals to people who use smartphones, tablets, and laptops. In theory this should increase revenue.
It’s hard to make money from data mining. EMediaVitals cited a study that found data capture was uneven, getting quality data was challenging, and not all publishers had clear goals about what to do with data.
BlueGlass gives five helpful tips for creating data-driven content (which should lead to making money). The list includes finding what data is available, determining how reliable it is, presenting the data effectively, and appealing to active users.
Below is some data publishers can consider about who reads what and on what device.
For publishers with apps, it may also help to know what ad networks are out there. Streetfight recently published a list of ad networks local publishers can use.
There are also ways to monetize social media channels, such as by gamifying content and giving out coupons. Marketers can also use data to enhance email campaigns and other ways to drive sales. Through data, marketers can learn what causes someone to open an email or click an ad.
Data and Privacy
With big data comes the concern for privacy. Some people may be worried that companies are collecting too much information from them, including what they read and how fast they read it. Although all companies say they aggregate and anonymize data, Stefan Kulk posted on his blog his concerns that there are ways to find information about individuals. Ed Felton voiced similar concerns on Tech@FTC. One solution is to combine datasets.
But is it really a big deal? Richard Lea wrote on The Guardian that the “Facebook generation isn’t bothered about the data e-readers are collecting.” He also mentions that this is just market research, no different from grocery stores that keep track of everything you buy.
Alistair Croli wrote on O’Reilly Radar that he sees the big data trend as a civil rights issue. It needs to be regulated.
The only way to deal with this properly is to somehow link what the data is with how it can be used. I might, for example, say that my musical tastes should be used for song recommendation, but not for banking decisions.
Tying data to permissions can be done through encryption, which is slow, riddled with DRM, burdensome, hard to implement, and bad for innovation. Or it can be done through legislation, which has about as much chance of success as regulating spam: it feels great, but it’s damned hard to enforce.
There are brilliant examples of how a quantified society can improve the way we live, love, work, and play. Big data helps detect disease outbreaks, improve how students learn, reveal political partisanship, and save hundreds of millions of dollars for commuters — to pick just four examples. These are benefits we simply can’t ignore as we try to survive on a planet bursting with people and shaken by climate and energy crises.
But governments need to balance reliance on data with checks and balances about how this reliance erodes privacy and creates civil and moral issues we haven’t thought through. It’s something that most of the electorate isn’t thinking about, and yet it affects every purchase they make.
What do you think?