The act of collecting data is no longer enough to declare yourself a data-driven operation. Everyone collects.
What happens next is the dividing line between winning and losing the survival game.
The winners transform the data in to information (transactional reporting), then move the information to knowledge by adding value (statistical modeling and causality discovery). Finally, they move the knowledge gained into action (campaigns and recommendations).
The losers are the “fake data players” (to steal a popular catchphrase) that collect all day and stop after the information transformation stage.
Where are you? Collecting or guiding actions? Is your business driven by what is learned, or the gut and intuition of days gone by, or by proven and supported facts?
The days of designing a beautiful home page to attract people to your site are long since passed. Why? Look at your data: You may find 40% or more of your traffic comes to you without ever seeing a home page.
Instead of embarking on a redesign because your pageviews are down, why not use the data collected to focus your attention where it is needed? Google Analytics (and other such tools) can tell you how people come to your site and where they enter (section page or direct to content) in a way that allows for developing behavioral-based changes.
At my media company, we spotted a while ago the home page bypass and redesigned how stories are delivered so we have ways to deliver advertising (i.e. pay the staff) when the classical home page and/or section pages are never seen.
The core business need is to transform the data you collect into actionable insight.
The transformation is not just for your own content or session building purposes. It is also to build the same actionable insights for your advertisers. You need to remind them of your value as the largest news operation in your community — a statement that applies to almost everyone who is reading this.
The very same analytics data works for the advertising side of the operation, and you know what pages are serving ads. You know what size of ads are served on each page, and you know the click-thru rates of every ad/advertiser. You know the peak and valley days of your site. You know the entry, journey, and exit paths. You know affinity grouping, age, and gender. And so on.
Use this information to help your sales specialists or multi-media reps. Give the reps the information and advertiser needs to make smart marketing decisions. Frankly, it isn’t enough to pitch a digital buy with The Daily Miracle as a pairing to a print buy — you must show the value of the digital component as if it were a standalone buy — because with increasing frequency it will be as stand-alone buy.
When you can make the data jump to action is when you make that jump to data-is-gold status. That is, you are now able to take data and drive design, story delivery, and, equally as important, ad delivery.
Successfully marrying your products with content sponsors (call them advertisers) drives your business as well as their business. Making the data jump on the B2B side puts your sales staff back into the digital marketing discussion. Digital advertising agencies are relentless in their messages to businesses. In a word: digital.
Your site(s) are probably the top-visited sites in your cities. You have to leverage that position, and data lets you do that. News distribution is in a deep battle to continue as the delivery agent of two things: news and stuff for sale (advertisements).
Use your collected data to balance news and internal need with the needs of the companies to whom you are selling advertising. They need to sell stuff, and when you can align your content to the right placements/ad buy schedules for them, they win too. When they win, some of that gold comes your way.
Now, grab your keyboards, all of you data miners. Sling some R, Python, or Google Analytics data, and give your advertising sales team something they can use to sell your site!