The news media industry is in the midst of “primitive times” where Big Data is concerned, Kenneth Cukier, senior data editor at The Economist, said at the Big Data for Media Conference in London in 2017.
“Although there are some ... companies like The New York Times and The Washington Post who are quite ahead of others because they’ve got a lot of heft and capital that can help make those investments, we are behind that. But that’s not a problem. There’s still a lot a company can do with a small team of dedicated people thinking long and hard about their problem.”
As far as The Economists’ priorities where Big Data is concerned, they depend on where you look:
- Marketing: “It’s absolutely in acquisitions and absolutely in retention.”
- Editorial: “It’s using this new tool to understand how our readers are consuming our content. What they like. What they don’t. We don’t actually know yet how we’re going to apply what we learn. But we absolutely know that we have to learn this.”
Automation and robots as journalists are not in the news company’s near future, Cukier said. The Economist produces 150 articles each week, compared to The Washington Post which produces 1,200 pieces of unique content daily. The Financial Times has 1,200 editorial employees. The Economist has 100.
“It’s just a different business that we’re in,” Cukier said. “First, what we’re doing right now is pretty good, so it’s not a big problem. Secondly, we’ve got a very good business model and we’ve got a cost structure that aligns nicely with that business model. And thirdly, there’s an expectation among our readers that what they’re getting is sort of handmade journalism, artisanal journalism — not ... factory-produced journalism.”