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How smaller media companies can use Big Data + Small Data

By Serla Rusli

City University of London

London, United Kingdom


Steffen Damborg, chief digital officer at DigitalConsult, shared tips on how small- and medium-sized media companies can think of business models around Big Data at the Big Data for Media Week conference in London on Friday.

He gave insights tapping on his expertise as a consultant and his experience as the former chief digital officer at JP/Politiken Local Media in Denmark.

“We all tend to look at the global news brands when we look for inspiration on how to crack the nut and get started with Big Data,” Damborg said. “However, there are a lot of things that you can do when you count your journalists in thousands but you can’t do when your newsroom size is in 10s or 20s.”

Steffen Damborg, chief digital officer at DigitalConsult, says small media companies must work smarter than global players.
Steffen Damborg, chief digital officer at DigitalConsult, says small media companies must work smarter than global players.

This is why smaller media companies simply have to work smarter and differently than the global brands, according to Damborg.

He came up with the concept of method triangulation, which means combining Big Data and Small Data, i.e. data that you can understand as a person.

“I think that Big Data is very interesting, but it creates a lot of value when you combine with Small Data,” Damborg said.

Using specific examples from Danish media, Damborg shared some of his key takeaways and success stories in the use of Big and Small Data for small- and medium-sized media companies.

First, engagement and positive evaluation is more than pageviews and time spends.

When Jyllands-Posten was introducing paid content business model, the media company used a combination of off-the-shelf solutions and conversations with users through observations and focus groups. This enables Jyllands-Posten to measure metrics cheaply and understand what drives people to its sites.

A scientific research on digital reader engagement by Twipe, Mediahuis, and University of Leuven investigated what affects the reader’s engagement. Some of their findings are:

  1. In measuring and predicting reader engagement, there is no correlation between attention, time, and positive affect.
  2. Positive affect is driven by content, composition, and fulfilling the objective within a given time constraint.

Second, delivering Big Data tools to the newsroom facilitates double loop learning.

In Jyllands-Posten case, the use of Big and Small Data has given tangible benefits, including:

  1. Building an editorial tool monitoring individual content, thus enabling double loop learning.
  2. Cultural change towards a more agile, customer-centric and data-driven approach to product development.
  3. Improved space management between free and paid content.
  4. A better understanding of churn and retention.
  5. Improved customer journey.

The third key takeaway that Damborg shared was smaller media companies could increase conversion rates through gamification.

MetroExpress in Denmark has seen significant increases in conversation rates among young readers by launching marketing initiatives through a spinning wheel game. This allows MetroExpress to collect information on its readers, such as phone numbers and geo data. These insights were then delivered using a browser-based dashboard to monitor how this advertising campaign performed.

Finally, small- and medium-sized media businesses are able to cooperate with universities to compensate the limited resources and tap on the Big Data knowledge that the students have. 

About Serla Rusli

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