Written for SYP Scotland blog | Darcie Tanner – Big Data, Now What? – Magfest 2015
2.5 quintillion. The number blazes from the screen. That’s the number of bytes of data we create every single day. There’s a lot of it and, largely, we don’t know what to do with it, and that’s where Darcie Tanner (Digital Director, Stripe Communications) comes in.
First, we talk acquisition. “You need to be doing it,” she begins. “It provides feedback you don’t get directly from users.” People usually talk about what makes them unhappy, but data can tell you where the successes are. “You’ll know what content users want, not what you think they want.”
Many have this data, but do they use it well? Deep dive into the demographics, look at the times. The Financial Times employ up to 30 data analysts – there’s a clear need for people who can interpret this data. What stops people is knowing what’s useful and pulling relevant insights, the resource, the time…
“There’s not time to do it right, but there is time to do it over,” she says, citing excuses she hears all too often. “Step back and do things properly. The long term benefits outweigh the time it takes to set up.”
What’s good data? In essence, “it’s any data that allows you to better understand and deliver quality contextual content to users.” Things like time on your site, clicks, comments, shares – they’re all valuable. Just because you have a responsive site, for example, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily good to use. There’s also false positives – high traffic doesn’t equate to success if people aren’t sticking around and reading. Google Analytics is deemed a good place to start.
“Are you identical to your neighbour?” she asks. One common targeting tactic is still postcode, despite the fact no two people on that street will likely fit the exactly same demographic other than locale. Targeting can have its issues, but you can zone in on gender, age, location, interests, device, activity, platforms so you’re not throwing your content out to people who aren’t actually interested.
Adblockers are a particularly large problem – they cost publishers a staggering £14.2b in 2015 alone. 198m ad blockers are used around the world. So if the ads are hidden, what do you do?
“It’s always time to start thinking about what’s next,” says Darcie. “Data will lose value from an advertising perspective, but not for audience targeting.”