The Insights of "Big Brother"
Andrew Brenneman, founder of Finitiv.
A second challenge is more significant. Distribution intermediaries and market platforms often treat user data as proprietary and do not release it to the publisher. Amazon and Apple are especially notorious for not giving publishers access to the full set of analytics data from their own customers. The rationale given is that these distribution "partners" are protecting the privacy of the consumer, a somewhat dubious claim since it is the publisher's customer to begin with. However, since intermediaries like Amazon and Apple often control both the platform and specific marketplaces (they are holding the trump cards), the publisher is forced to accept whatever data the intermediary chooses to give them. This is a critical battle in determining how the digital landscape settles. At the end of the day, those organizations that have rich sets of analytics data and the ability to use them will be able to maximize their effectiveness in the marketplace.
Those challenges aside, there are some initial questions publishing organizations should explore if they wish to develop the capability to make business decisions based upon user analytics:
- What questions do you want the data to answer for you? What insights do you seek? If you don't know what you are looking for the data can't tell you the answer.
- What behaviors or points of data need to be recorded? Digital systems can record and save everything. But everything is too much. You need to consider what needs to be in the logged data so you are not drowning in too much data.
- What report formats and automated analysis need to be done to the data logged? In other words, how do you go from the data collected to the answers you seek? As in the case of data collection, a report with too much detail is often as useless as one with too little.
- What actions will be taken strategically or operationally when you get the answers you seek? If the insights are not acted upon, then the whole initiative is largely academic.
To a large degree, effective digital publishing consists of a dialog between reader and publisher. Publishers bring individuals into dynamic digital marketing and product experiences. When the individual engages in these digital experiences, data is generated from which the publisher gains insight to make ever more compelling experiences. And around and around it goes in a true virtuous cycle.