Big data, big decisions

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Miles Weaver
December 3rd 2015 at 4:52PM : By

Miles Weaver, director of product marketing at Piksel, reminds us data is useless without an understanding of its context

Miles Weaver, PikselData is a lot like oil: not very useful on its own, but incredibly valuable once refined. Using this analogy, it’s easy to see why big data has become the source of much interest across the TV industry, and why businesses are investing a huge amount of time and energy into collecting it, interpreting it, and harnessing it to fuel their content strategies and create stickier consumer experiences. When analysed properly, good data holds the key to linking audiences with the content they want (might want) to watch, helping service providers achieve new levels of consumer engagement and satisfaction – obviously something that would be highly lucrative and important from a business perspective. Recent research from Piksel found that reducing churn is the number one commercial priority for companies taking part in some form of analytics collection, indicating the strong ROI justification underpinning investment in this area.

Perceptions about data collection and analytics are predominantly positive, with 68 percent of survey respondents finding recommendations to be of critical value to their business. However, 32 percent remain unsure or see no value whatsoever - something of an anomaly in 2015. It is thus important to understand why this is, and what we can do to address it.

The survey indicated that there are various practical barriers to the adopting and embracing analytics technologies, namely that there are challenges in finding the right solutions and complexities in handling and understanding the ingestion of data. But our on-going industry conversations lead us to believe that there are some psychological barriers standing in the way as well.

For UK broadcasters, BARB (Broadcasters Audience Research Board) has been the status quo for understanding the needs of people watching TV for many years, offering incredibly refined and accurate methods which have served broadcasters well. Understandably, the sudden pressure to adopt in-house technologies to directly collect consumer interaction data has been met with some resistance. There is a distrust as to its accuracy, its insight and even its long-term viability. (It has to be said though, TV will become a distant memory long before the concept of online viewing will). Data from digital sources, tied directly to a user profile, can track every user interaction and is far more personalised and representative of that user’s behaviour. It is, in many cases, simply better, but comes with a host of challenges like the volume of data, and how to interpret that correctly into something valuable. It doesn’t have to be an ‘all or nothing’ arrangement though.

Used effectively, digital data can have a transformative effect on how a business engages with its customers. It offers new ways to understand the hard-to-reach millennial market, at a time when YouTube personalities like PewDiePie (39 million subscribers and counting) are more influential and popular with 13-18 year olds than mainstream celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence. The very concept of television is changing, and digital data is key to understanding where users are headed, making it a paramount tool in offsetting the drift away from established content sources.

However the trend towards digital, both in terms of consumer consumption and consumer data, will not supplant the need for traditional methods of understanding the consumer. No one is saying that the future is a YouTube-only world of self-produced, short form content that relies entirely on digital interpretation of analytics to better refine viewing options; but nor is it a world comprised only of the models that have got us to this point in 2015. It’s a merger of both.

Consumers are going to keep moving online to get their content. Like it or not, that is a simple fact. Linear broadcast is becoming less and less relevant to them as they find they’re able to structure viewing as they choose, rather than having to adhere to someone else’s schedule. At the same time as this move away from the traditional broadcast model though, viewers are providing a huge new wealth of viewing and interaction data that, combined with traditional audience measurement and understanding tools like BARB data (not to mention the legacy of human insight that only historic institutions like BARB have), can help broadcasters and brands to energise their digital strategies, creating a far more seamless transition from the old, linear model to a more refined, a la carte digital future.

The only danger in embracing data is in taking a siloed approach, and failing to acknowledge the value of both old and new forms. Digital and broadcast need to work together to capture and retain viewer interest – a blinkered approach will only lose sight of the consumer, and send them into the arms of competitors who are promising to understand them better. The consumer is driving this revolution; it is our job to keep up.


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