Shoptalk: The Big Data Commitment

By: John Newby

It is no secret the onset of the Internet and digital ages truly transformed and continues to transform the way news media companies conduct their business. In fact, most news media companies are still trying to gather their sea legs during the current storm of digital progress as they continue to figure that model out.

The saying “there is no rest for the weary” is certainly appropriate for the violent transformation storm that continually rages on. Even as news media companies are attempting to remain standing from the current storm, along comes the next wave of stormy change.

Big Data will not only transform the way we think about our businesses just as the Internet and digital has, but, more importantly, it will change the way we view and think about our customers forever.  It will once again transform the entire business landscape.

Big Data really isn’t the most appropriate term. It isn’t about Big Data at all, but rather many bits or fragments of small data with a huge appeal and a big result. Big Data is, in reality, about massive amounts of little data. It is about dozens or even hundreds of little pieces of seemingly useless information when viewed individually in a vacuum.

However, when compiled and viewed together in a readable summary, we have a new and powerful profile enabling us to reach people in a way that interests them and talks to them on a platform on which they are comfortable and more likely to respond.

While there has always been and will always be a place for a “gut feeling” in every business, the proper and aggressive use of Big Data will allow the gut feelings to continue making those important calls, but they will have viable Big Data to help steer that feeling.

Knowing the habits and traits of the individual in lieu of the average profile of the neighborhood is far more effective. What one home receives may well differ than the neighbor next door.

Regardless of whether you work in advertising, circulation, editorial, marketing, or any other department within a news media company, understanding the role of Big Data in your business is crucial to your future.

Simply giving lip service to Big Data will only spell doom. As a group, news media companies missed the Internet boat and are still paying the price—a price that some may never recover from. Likewise, if we treat Big Data in a similar fashion, it will be another missed opportunity we let slip through our hands.

Some news media companies are just now starting to wrestle with the Big Data dilemma staring back at us in the mirror. Unfortunately, most are still watching from the sidelines, unwilling to devote the time, energy, and, most importantly, resources to begin this long journey.

Make no mistake: Big Data expertise will not come free, or even easy. It will be a journey that requires commitment and dedication from the top down. Moreover, while there is great opportunity, the real payoff with this investment of time and resources will be measured in years, not days and weeks. Any other thinking isn’t only foolish, it is suicidal in today’s economy.

The good news is that we don’t have to do it alone. We can lean on others to do some of the heavy lifting. There are many conferences and events where the tools of Big Data can be learned and crafted.  While not able to list them all due to space in this column, I would recommend that you consider the INMA Data Insights Conference ( coming up in Chicago Oct. 1-2. This event will place everything Big Data into a manageable process, and you will come away with not only a better understanding of Big Data, but how it can and should transform your business.


John Newby is the publisher of
The Times in Ottawa, Ill. and contributes to the INMA Satisfying Audiences blog, where this article originally appeared.

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Published: September 22, 2015


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