Feedback Loop: Big Reach of Big Data

Each Friday we ask an industry leader to critique Digiday’s coverage of the industry that week. Steve Rubel, evp global strategy and insights at Edelman, does the honors. Follow him on Twitter at @steverubel

Editorial’s New Social Math
“We write for an audience and care what people are responding to,” said Ben Williams, editorial director at New York Magazine, which uses Newsbeat. “That’s a factor in deciding what types of stories we do tomorrow, today or even next week.”

Big data is one of the defining themes of the decade. As institutions and individuals get more real-time feedback, it will certainly change our behaviors. If you’ve ever driven a Prius or used a step tracker, then you know what I mean.

Media companies are the same. They don’t employ robots. They employ human beings. Therefore, they naturally exhibit human qualities that data influences.

While there’s no doubt that news judgment remains king, it’s clear that data is queen. This story highlights the quiet role that data plays in the newsroom (at least in informing editorial decisions) and sheds more light on what will be an important topic for years to come.

The Forgotten Social Network:LinkedIn.
Lost in the clamor around Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr and other social media darlings is the fact that there’s a social network not called Facebook or Twitter that’s huge and profitable: LinkedIn.

First, a disclosure: LinkedIn is an Edelman client. So, naturally, I feel this story is important to read. And, yes, I am biased in their favor. However, rather than comment on the merits of LinkedIn’s platform, I want to address why this story is important to note for another reason.

Social networking is now part of the fabric of life. It’s going to weave its way into every business and personal digital experience. This story illustrates that we shouldn’t box it in, but think about the bigger picture — how it builds relationships, which drive our society.

Magazines Fumble the iPad Opportunity:
The fact is most iPad editions of magazines are simply print products squeezed onto a tablet screen with little, if any, consideration for the unique user experience of tablets.

Why is it that we feel technology needs to reinvent everything? It doesn’t. When in doubt: Don’t fix it if it’s not broken.

The word “magazine” connotes a certain visual. Apple, with its Newsstand software, seems to understand this, and they have adopted a metaphor we are already accustomed to. It’s OK if magazine apps are static. They can be a simple twist on the existing model.

This maybe a situation where we should separate the word “app” from the word “magazine” and treat the user experience differently. The skeuomorph UX works here.

Social’s Hidden Power: Search Ranking:
While most companies have one or two blogs at most, Zappos has six: More Than Shoes, Fashion Culture, Zappos Family, Zappos.TV and CEO and COO Blog. Additionally, Zappos’ content strategy on its social assets is also helping boost search rankings for its social media destinations.

Everyone understandably is looking for an edge in search rankings. With the launch Google’s Search Plus Your World, it’s clear that there’s a direct interplay between search and social engagement.

However, what I think many overlook is that it still comes down to some of the same basics. We need to focus on creating good content that is socially connected vs. thinking about “social search.”

Search engine optimization is today’s war. And it’s important. But let’s make sure we don’t focus too much on “social search” and miss tomorrow’s war: mobile. In the near future, I believe marketers will become laser focused on app store optimization. Just remember where you heard this first!

The Science of Mining Social Media Data:
Social data is a powerful source of insight that can craft new marketing strategies or even entirely new products and services.

This article makes me wish I didn’t sleep through my math classes. It seems like more marketers are focused on using data for measurement vs. for insights. The media companies, as the first story illustrates, do both well. This story complements my first pick because it illustrates the opportunity to harness data in new ways.

Data-driven insights will be more critical in the future as marketers begin to dig more into behavioral science and how habits are formed and solidified. This is just the beginning. (For more on this, read Charles Duhigg’s outstanding new book, “The Power of Habits”).

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