Big Data for Media Week kicked off on Monday with a two-day study tour around London. Twenty-five study tour participants from around the world visited BBC, Telegraph Media Group, Bloomberg, The Guardian, Google News Lab, and IBM Watson, getting a glimpse behind the scenes at these innovative U.K. media companies.

Big Data for Media Week, in its fifth year, includes two days of study tours, a one-day strategy and idea exchange, and two-day conference. INMA and World Newsmedia Network (WNMN) partner for the week, which will draw 200 attendees from 29 countries.

The group stopped at Bloomberg, one of six media companies on the study tour.
The group stopped at Bloomberg, one of six media companies on the study tour.

Google’s Matt Cooke introduced a range of Google analytics tools freely available for journalists: Google Trends (for analysis of google searches), Storyspheres (for annotating 360 photographs with multi-media), My Maps (for enhanced, embeddable maps), and Google Earth Pro (where journalists can download free satellite footage).

Discussion of news media businesses and data narratives was of high interest to those on the study tour. Cooke gave a detailed account of the tools offered among Google products and how they can help a news organisation distribute content effectively, analyse data, and monetise content.

Study tour participants ask questions on the stop at BBC.
Study tour participants ask questions on the stop at BBC.

Case studies included The Economist, which increased its revenue by 50%, and AccuWeather, which used Google tools to attract more value to its advertisers. The fundamental points of this talk were that news media companies “need a strong analytics tool to understand your own audiences,” and that publishers that use data outperform those who don’t.

How does a media company do this? According to Cooke:

  1. Access the metric. There are different levels of depth (and price) in which media companies can do this with Google.
  2. Identify your users and segment them efficiently. “Think like a buyer,” Cooke said.
  3. Market it. Be clear about what your inventory package says, and combine it with market or seasonal trends.
  4. Talk about your data: Network, make friends, and build a message.

The study tour stopped at Telegraph Media Group for a tour and presentation.
The study tour stopped at Telegraph Media Group for a tour and presentation.

The final stop of the day was IBM, where study tour participants were introduced to Watson, IBM’s augmented intelligence cognitive system. The system can consume and analyse huge amounts of data — both structured and unstructured — in tiny amounts of time. It can understand the data, reason, and learn from it.

“Cognitive systems are creating a new partnership between humans and technology,” meaning that human input supplements machine learning, IBM’s Carrie Lomas told the group. 

This is crucial to how Watson works: “It’s the experts who put the data in,” she said, citing an example of surgeons inputting data so that less equipped hospitals can access the knowledge.

She also gave the example of a trailer for the film Morgan, made by Watson in two hours with input from creatives. The software had analysed trailers and identified patterns to make its own edit.

Watson can analsze brand sentiment and even tweet back, maintaining a tone. In this sense, it is ideal for customer service.

Tuesday ended with demos of how Watson has been used. One example is TedX: Watson has analysed Ted transcripts so that when someone types in a question, it switches to a moment in the video that might answer the question. 

The study tour provided valuable insights into the current scope for Big Data — ways in which the news and media industries are learning to grapple with it to monetise their work, as well as the new frontiers of Big Data and its applications.