Over the past decade, the proliferation of devices that can connect to the internet has skyrocketed. And we’re not just talking about your smartphone, e-reader, or friend Alexa. These days, almost anything with an on/off switch or sensor (cars, coffee makers, refrigerators, even clothing) can connect to the internet and share information that makes our lives easier.
This network of connected “stuff” has been dubbed the internet of things (IoT). According to Forbes, by 2020 there will be more than 26 billion connected devices around the world. That’s a lot of devices — and a lot of data being collected and shared.
Publishers are just beginning to realize the tremendous possibilities of the IoT and the big data it creates. With advancing technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), using that data is not only possible but also imperative if you want to provide the best service to your authors, advertisers, and audience. But understanding these opportunities and how to take advantage of them is a challenge for publishers as we move into this new and exciting era of big data.
Create a plan
To get the most benefit from all the data being created in this interconnected world, you need to have a plan. What are your goals and objectives? Knowing your publishing and business goals will help you determine which data to collect. What data are you already collecting that you can leverage (email addresses, page visits, event data, etc.)?
During this planning stage, ask why you want to collect certain data and how you plan to use it. For example, why do you want to collect demographic data? Probably so you can provide a more personalized product or service. Or perhaps you want to capture reader behavior data and use it to create more targeted and effective marketing campaigns. By starting at the end goals, you can determine what data to collect and how to structure the databases and repositories.
Putting the data to use
With the diverse types of data available (audience, content, video, event, financial), you’ll likely have multiple data repositories. In the past, connecting and indexing these repositories so that the various departments — editorial, sales, marketing — could access and use the data to improve their operations and products was challenging.
But by placing tools and technologies such as AI and machine learning on top of these databases, the right data can be extracted, cross-referenced, and analyzed to gain knowledge and insight that can improve the user experience, streamline operations, deliver targeted readers to advertisers, improve marketing efforts, and ultimately boost the bottom line. At a basic level, these new technologies can be used to recommend articles and keep readers engaged with related content.
Going a step beyond that, publishers can use AI and big data to do things such as dynamically determine when to implement paywalls, serve up content according to user relevance or preference ranking, or discover how audiences are actually using the content.
In real life
The IoT is providing a wealth of valuable data that is largely going untapped in the publishing realm, primarily because of limited analytical capabilities. AI is changing that and opening up all sorts of possibilities for audience development, workflow management, enhanced search capabilities, print and digital integration, dynamic content and ad delivery — and much more. Here are a couple of ways that publishers have already begun to use the data now available to them.
- An Open Sense Labs article discusses how HuffingtonPost.com has consistently grown its page views since using big data analytics to deliver personalized content during a time period when the target audience is most likely to be online. The media company also used the data to authenticate comments on its website after it determined that readers trusted comments from known users more than unnamed users.
- A Financial Times spokesperson says that the company’s digital subscriptions have surpassed its print subscribers thanks to big data. The media company says the data it collects allows a better understanding of its readers so that it can better target content to readers’ needs and personalize content to individuals’ behaviors and preferences.
If you haven’t yet begun using big data in your publishing operations, you’re missing out on a tremendous resource. It can be challenging knowing how and where to start, but new tools and technologies such as AI are making it relatively easy to access, analyze, and gain valuable insight from all the data available.