Online Publishers and Big Data: Getting a Grip On User Analytics

A Big Data survival guide for connecting the dots between content and users

Here’s a big data dilemma for online publishers – how can they leverage big data to maximize impact on the bottom line? More specifically, how can digital publishers . . .

  • Connect the dots between content and users in all the different channels?
  • Track user behavior across different channels (the basic metrics: device, demographics, page views etc.)?
  • Better understand content data – who reads what, when, who is the writer, how many shares, likes and so on?
  • Find out where the money coming from revenue cannels like banner positioning and advertisement performance?

No doubt, content is in high demand online, with streaming video comprising about 35% of all Internet traffic during normal television watching hours. In addition . . .

  • 72 hours of video are added to YouTube every minute
  • 864,000 hours of YouTube video are uploaded each day
  • 22 million hours of TV and movies are watched on Netflix each day
  • Zynga processes one petabyte of videogame content per day

Content is especially pervasive on social media, as more than 1.4 billion online consumers are spending 22% of their time on social platforms (Facebook alone generates 172 million users each day, with Twitter adding another 40 million.)

Consequently, brand name online publishers are merging data analytics with fresh content in unique ways to capitalize on the burgeoning consumer demand for more content.

Huffington Post, for example, is using big data to track user dashboards and social trends (which they can use to generate more content than users want), and to monitor consumer demands for advertisers. As Huffington Post chief executive officer Jimmy Maymann said at a recent industry conference : “It’s all about data.”

The U.K.-based Financial Times is using data analytics to build customer signatures that the publishing giant uses to better understand what online consumers want to see most on the site. They’re also gathering user data to steer consumers to high-advertising pages, and to gather intelligence on key customer services, like mobile apps, third party offerings, and customer service.

Online publishers like The Financial Times and The Huffington Post know only too well the payoff linked to big data.  Bain & Company reports that companies who deploy and track big data on a regular basis are  . . .

  • Five times as likely to make decisions faster than market peers
  • Three times as likely to execute decisions as intended
  • Twice as likely to be in the top quarter of financial performances within their industries
  • Twice as likely to use data very frequently when making decisions

Online publishers see additional benefits, such as better engagement with readers and viewers on leading-edge content, and to better compete with – and beat – other online media competitors in gathering more content consumers, and more ad dollars.

Better cost, better data, better customer service

No doubt, fast and reliable access to data across gives influential online publishing decision makers a critical edge by connecting them to a dynamic network of information, people and ideas.

That’s really the crux of real time data analytics digital content providers, which is largely defined as the use of all available enterprise data and resources, giving users practically instant access and use of analytical data, whenever they need it.

But to maximize data utilization, digital publishers need to understand the value in creating big data programs, how to use that data, and how to get help when they need it (and you will need it.)

Better Cost Structures

One real-time data stream used by online media companies eliminates the need for redundant platforms and fees, But that’s just the tip of the “affordability” iceberg. Data shows that it really is cheaper to go with vendor solutions than to build it yourself.  After all, building a real time data platform is very labor intensive and very expensive. One way for online publishers to cut costs on the data analytics front is to have open interfaces so you’re not locked in to a proprietary platform. Another is to look for a vendor who doesn’t regularly change their pricing model.

Better Data Flexibility

With real time data, it’s best to stream data through any existing channels. The secret is a good, open API that can integrate with a wide range of systems (including third-party technology) for highly flexible workflow management, and for better consumer data tracking.

The Need for Better Customer Service

A thorough menu of customer service options is paramount for online publishing firms looking to better handle huge volumes of data every day. After all, reams of research, internal pricing, marketing information and more passes back and forth among company data trackers on an everyday basis. Consequently, make sure you get 24/7 availability from your vendor, along with a team of people who are highly qualified. When working with outside data providers gathering highly sensitive and complicated real time data, the difference in quality can come down to getting the right questions answered the first time, every time.

With any real time data analysis implementations, the goal is to create seamless, integrated workflows across your specific IT environment — while minimizing operational risk and total cost of ownership.

No doubt, the best way to do that is to do your homework, and know what the insiders know about implementing and managing real time data for your online publishing empire.

This post was written by Brian O’Connell.  Brian has over 15 years experience covering technology news and trends, for major media platforms like CBS News, Bloomberg News,, and many others.

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