Data vs. Gut: How Publishers and Content Creators Should Decide Which Is Best


Social Media Week

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Traditionally marketing and advertising practices have relied largely upon gut-something to the nature of look and feel. As social media has reared its newborn head, incumbent celebrities and corporate heads have gradually begun to tiptoe towards actually building a following for brand and personal purposes.

With the new rise of data and low-cost scalability in computing, the inception of revolutionary metrics and statistics are making us question our gut. For instance, Betsy Fast, Site Director at Seventeen.com, recounted how her suggested titles for a teenager’s article was actually not as popular as the original title, due to the data she received from her site.

On the whole, viewership is exploding due to social platforms: 25 million views from Harpers Bazaar’s Facebook page with only 2.5 million actual followers is unheard of a decade ago. Viewership means voices, and those voices are being aggregated and analyzed.

Disruption is salient. Joyann King, editor of HarpersBazaar.com, mentioned that their site just implemented A/B testing, which would resolve numerous site design and outreach choices through actual quantification of visitor behavior. Humorously so, she reflected that the choice of a site main product image used to be “holding hands and saying ‘I feel M&M’s’ or ‘I feel Reese’s’,” which is as far a cry from leveraging site analytics as is using ouija board to ask about your ancestors versus signing up for Ancestry.com.

Suffice it to say, this step toward data-driven decision-making in the media industry is a mile long leap for the marketing industry.

Joanna Saltz, Site Director of Delish.com, celebrated growing from a few thousand to 73 thousand followers on their Instagram channel. In the same vein, Joyann noted that social media is allowing behind-the-scenes peeks to drive even more validation that content will drive viewership and popularity for actual published content.

Even so, Joanna mentioned that content delivery qualities are being filtered by data: food-porn over snapchat cannot be presented with too much professionalism and image quality to come off as effective snapchat.

What does this mean for the gut-driven content producer? Collecting data and developing analytics not only drives intelligence about how to best reach and characterize the larger internet customer set, but also provides avenues to strike up individual conversations in the community.

The limit to this disruption, as cogently put by Kate Lewis, VP Content Operations & Editorial Director at Hearst digital, is that the minds of publishers are not accustomed to “changing screens.”

Translation: an opportunity exists for a four-sided B2B company to fit the square hole, and we are only less than a decade away from a crowded market for publisher-intelligence SaaS products. Start your engines, entrepreneurs.

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James Liao

Student, Columbia Business School

I am a second year at Columbia Business School, focusing on Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital. I am a graduate mentor for the Founders Institute, and work at Bowery Capital and 37 Angels. I love startups and have been a founder, and am still searching for the next builders opportunity.



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