Actionable Data

19 03 2010

As part of my internship experience with The Media Consortium tracking user data has been an important task. Although it can be very time-consuming and occasionally frustrating, it is an important aspect for any online enterprise. It involves gathering data from sources like Google Analytics, Feedburner, and Newsladder and analyzing it to determine the way that users interact with the site. The main challenge becomes sorting through all the data in order to gain meaningful information that can be used for the company’s benefit. This is a challenge because these sources provide a great deal of information; they are incredibly thorough. Although one would be tempted to think that the most important information to gain from these sources are the number of page views any given site might get, some media experts say that is not so important anymore.

According to a blog post on Read Write Web says that page views have become an obsolete form of tracking data. They quantify this metric as a part of the dot-com crash “failed business model”. This makes sense, as the internet continues to grow and expand; the attention of consumers becomes a very scarce and hard-to-obtain resource. The focus and goal in reaching consumers becomes reaching the right consumer, at the right time with the right information. This is becoming the best business practice in the 21st century. This was the same thought that Seth Godin posited in his book “Unleashing The Ideavirus“. Godin’s advice boils down the notion of the “idea” as something that is directly applicable and important to people. In this day and age this is the best way to gain their attention. According to Godin:

“Marketing by interrupting people isn’t cost-effective anymore. You can’t afford to seek out people and send them unwanted marketing messages…and hope that some will send you money.”

This further proves the idea that measuring page views as a way of identifying consumer trends is simply ineffective and obsolete. The Read Write Web offers some insight for adapting to this new consumer culture. Marketers and public relations practitioners should now start to focus on what their users do with their content and how they can respond these actions to create a mutually beneficial website experience. This is what the article calls actionable data. This is data that people should “…use the information you gather to make a decision and take action”. Obviously the first step for this is getting a way to gather and analyze the data.

Like many other services before it, website analytics has also been changed with the Web 2.0 revolution. This makes these services more easily available to smaller companies. They are free of charge. Five years ago, my employer would not have had enough budget to access paid services that provide this information. Thanks to Google’s open-access mantra, their service is completely free, user-friendly and chocked-full of features that make visitor analysis a very insightful venture. I look forward, past the pain-staking data-gathering aspect of this project and being able to see how this data can best be used to interact with our audiences.

It seems like this novel concept of action over numbers is starting to spread as well. Twitter recently announced a new initiative to make their service more accessible. Instead of “buttons” that re-direct viewers from a website to Twitter page, they will now be able to see their tweets in the same page, as well as having the option to follow that user. Twitter is clearly adapting to this mantra. Instead of bumping up the number of people that visit their site, they are increasing and differentiating the way that users can use the service. They are giving their users the right tools to interact with their service and fostering action with that information and data; ultimately this may be the best strategy for continuing Twitter’s burgeoning popularity.

What remains to be seen is the efforts that other Web 2.0 outlets come up with to further engage their users. The focus is now to make their data something that people not only see, but also interact with and spread throughout the web.

Links Cited: