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Digital Content Next


InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

Mastering Data to Optimize Content and Capture Attention

January 6, 2015 | By Michelle Manafy, Editorial Director – DCN @michellemanafy

Last year around this time, more than one pundit predicted that 2014 would be “the year of data;” unfortunately, the sobering light of early 2015 has delivered a fair number of articles calling 2014 the year of data breaches. It appears that consumers, media industry players are developing a bit of a love-hate relationship with data given the necessity (and challenge) of addressing privacy concerns, the seemingly limitless potential for hacks, grim statistics around ad viewability, and ongoing discussions about which metrics really matter to marketers.

On the the positive side – particularly for marketers, is that data is providing opportunities to create compelling new marketing offerings and personalized content experiences. While just-right, just-on-time content is hardly controversial—particularly in the context of trusted content providers who are transparent about what data is collected and why—there remains some concern that data-driven content creates a “filter bubble,” in which content is so tailored to your stated interests that you rarely see anything else, even if it is about important issues.

For consumers, data-driven content creates a mixed reaction: frustration when sites don’t tailor content offerings to their needs and even more when they are served ill-fitting pseudo recommendation links or followed around the web with content-targeted advertising. So despite the challenges in collecting, protecting and leveraging data, the focus our industry shines on it is merited. Given the insights and opportunities data provides, it is also well-worth the effort to understand its power and potential.

This year’s Digital Content Next Summit, the member’s only annual meeting of DCN’s senior executives from more than 60 digital media brands, is themed “The Attention Economy” and will focus on the myriad ways our attention is pulled, stretched, interrupted and engaged.  While advertising and marketing have captured the lion’s share of attention, there are many other ways that organizations online are putting data to work, not only to measure attention but also to attract and engage in the first place

Christian Rudder, the co-founder of OKCupid and author of Dataclysm, will kick off the event with an unprecedented look at what data can reveal about people and ways in which should or shouldn’tuse this information to shape online experiences. Rudder has had his share of success with data: OKCupid is not only highly trafficked with impressive time spent statistics, but also a highly-rated dating site. He has also had his failures, some of which drove his most revealing explorations of data. Ultimately, though, this Harvard-trained mathematician has developed a committed relationship with data and will share his “intimate” knowledge of the subject.

Certainly, getting to know users is one of the most appealing applications of online data. But most of us aren’t in the matchmaking business so we put that information to work in other ways. DCN Member, Business Insider, uses data to grow attention through mobile, social and other channels. At the Digital Content Next Summit, President and COO Julie Hansen will discuss how they’ve created a site that leverages algorithms and editors to produce recommendations that actually satisfy visitors. Business Insider also provides its entire team—business and editorial—with real-time dashboards to optimize content creation, delivery across channels and increase value for readers and marketers alike.

The CEO of Dynamic Yield (a DCN Supporter Member), Liad Agmon will share insights in his Summit presentation on ways in which organizations can harness data to increase user engagement. In particular he has found that, given decreasing user attention spans and the real-estate limitations imposed by mobile browsing, the need to show visitors exactly what they are looking for has become critical. Agmon’s point underscores the theme of the DCN Summit for 2015 and the rest of the 2-day agenda: Today’s consumers have a voracious appetite for content, but a finite amount of time in which to consume it. Data is a powerful tool—and an essential one to master—as we seek to make meaningful connections in this attention economy.

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