Jane Wagner

Driving Data


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The gap between data and media has been continuously closing for some time. Data drives so many online interactions these days that it’s very difficult to tell what is and isn’t tailored to our own likes and tastes. Media companies have begun to successfully harness the power that data has and use it to their benefits, and consumers are benefitting more and more as well.

By tracking our every move while on their sites, these companies can evaluate their work almost immediately, and figure out what they did right and wrong to keep the readers’ attentions. The data , however, can only interpret reactions to content that have already been created and published. Data analytics have not evolved enough yet to predict exactly what will be popular and what will end up being a dud. Creating content is still a very creative field, and involves a deeper thought process than a computer can provide.

“One myth is data scientists are telling reporters what to write and what to cover,” said Buzzfeed publisher Dao Nguyen in a Fast Company article.

Just because the scientists can see who got the most hits on their story that day, definitely doesn’t mean that they know who will get the most hits tomorrow or next week or next month. It’s still sort of a random process, and sometimes reporters just get lucky with a great headline or a flashy visual. Solid, well-written stories with great leads and strong content will still be read, too.

Other media companies that don’t constantly churn out stories are utilizing data in new ways, too. Netflix, for example knows exactly what your favorite shows are and is great at guessing what you may watch next. Spotify gives its users access to its database and lets them create their own custom data screens that can show a variety of different things. They can even see how many emails delivered by the app that day. Shazam, the music app that listens to a segment of a song and tells you the name and artist, interprets data so well that it can predict which songs will get big up to a month before they actually blow up.

It will be extremely interesting to see how developers will continue to use data in the shaping of the media landscape. Maybe someday, sooner than we think, we won’t even think about what to read or watch. We’ll rely so heavily on the suggestions sites and apps make that we won’t have to search for a single story or show. By continuing to build the bridge between the scientific data-driven field and the media, our world will continue to grow smaller and be tailored specifically to our own interests, which may lead to or draw away from a more informed overall society.

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