Big Data in Small Doses

The issue of advertising came up recently, whilst discussing a responsive, video on demand web service, and it got me thinking again about context dependent delivery. The contextual concerns of responsive sites design are often ignored, but in this case the decision of placing in-stream adverts was made completely unawares of the impact to the mobile viewer.

My first worry was that someone on a mobile network doesn’t want to waste their data (and valuable time) on streamed adverts, and I offered the idea of switching advert type dependant on context (view)… suggesting perhaps we could simply have banner adverts on mobile. But there are other alternatives for the treatment of audiences and advertising.

Of all the things that interested me at the Mobile World Congress this year, it was NEC’s big data subscription influencer research that intrigued me the most. The idea is that the positive and negative effects of subscriber memberships are tracked through their social networks and the uptake of their connections. If it turns out that all your friends tend to drift to the same internet and phone provider shortly after you do, then you may well find free phones coming through the door as manufacturers and service providers begin to perceive you as a viable, investible influencer.

Now big data isn’t particularly new – only the name is. And in this example you don’t always need massive cross referencing databases to automatically discern a value to a particular audience member. If, for the sake of argument, you were of the opinion that all advertising inserted and asserted before a requested video clip, is a negative user experience (which isn’t even a new-media problem), then you would likely also agree that such effects devalue your service as a whole (by some measure). …and then we get into the numbers of people who simply switch off because they’re tired of seeing that same 15second trailer again and again every time they click something.

But in this space, the moment someone shares a your content to a social network, they become a potential influencer. And have suddenly proven value, and in my opinion, worthy audience members to keep on the site removing any and all barriers. By removing any possible barriers you will have a better chance of keeping that user there, consuming your content and hopefully also spreading it out.

I don’t have all the numbers here in front of me, and indeed the thresholds for opting in and out aren’t even discussed here, but I bet if gauged fairly, could be a small price to pay for big benefits.

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