Data do or data don’t? Privacy vs. possibility for big data in media

Big data in media CSC Blogs

Subscriber databases. Nielsen ratings. Media companies are no stranger to collecting and using data to make enterprise decisions. But in today’s data-rich and -prized world, the possibilities are nearly endless.

Media companies now employ data scientists to oversee data collection, inform product marketing and content creation and improve search engine optimization and social media engagement, among other goals. In fact, data experts now support – or should be supporting – many of the business units within media companies. (A big change for an industry that’s stereotypically filled with math-averse journalists and creatives!)

Successful engagement with big data offers big opportunities. To highlight a few areas where data is being used successfully:

Content Creation

Data journalism CSC Blogs

More and more, journalists investigate data to inform their reporting.

Data journalism is a buzzy term that speaks to the trend of using data to drive the story. More and more, reporters turn rows of numbers into impactful text and visual narratives – think appealing infographics, splashy interactives and deep investigative articles.

If data doesn’t make up the foundation of the story, it’s definitely guiding the telling. Publishers today analyze metrics such as page views, social media shares and time spent to decide which content resonates best with audiences – and what to serve up more of. (Insert gratuitous Kim Kardashian link here.)


The more media companies learn about their customers, the better they can distribute content and advertising to meet their needs.

Personalized news is an idea that’s launched more than a few startups. Digital media companies have taken up the hatchet with tools such as Apple News, Google Now and customizable homepages and apps. The opportunities in this space stretch for miles.

Especially on the advertising side. Audience targeting has become a lucrative tool for enterprises that embrace programmatic advertising. In this model, data drives the buy, as platforms monitor inventory and deliver ads based on targeted customer profiles.


Of course, programmatic offers a premium opportunity to turn big data into big bucks. But there are others to tap into.

Traditional advertising benefits from the deep well of client data, too. “The pitch of the future is not about selling a media product. It’s about selling the ability to reach exactly the consumers who are most likely to care about your product or service…” writes Steve Gray of the International News Media Association.

Some media companies are even creating new revenue streams by offering digital marketing, data analytics and cutting-edge beacon services to advertising partners.

So what’s the worry? As always when customer data is involved: privacy.

Attacks such as those in 2015 on Sony and highlight the worst that can happen when media companies are targeted. And a new survey by PwC shows that media businesses face an increased number of cyberattacks while feeling less secure overall in their strategy for protecting customer information.

That’s a problem.

And then there’s the equally challenging task of walking the fine line between “that’s neat” and “that’s scary.” Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign found success when it used sign-on names to personalize TV ads for Channel 4 On Demand users. The ad tagline “Share a Coke With” was followed by the viewer’s name. That campaign generated 11 million mostly positive Tweets, but you can easily see how viewers might have had the opposite reaction.

As media becomes a data-driven industry, it can learn a lot from sectors such as government, finance and healthcare that have dealt with the challenges of protecting data by putting the right technologies and policies in place. As for the question of privacy versus possibility, the barometer will likely be set by some spectacular successes and failures.

If handled correctly, your company can be counted among those successes – and the possibilities will be more than worth the price.

Data is king, and the reign will be long. What is your company doing to maximize opportunities while protecting customers?

As always, I welcome your input on how to approach changes and challenges in media. If you think I’ve misread a situation or trend, let me know. If you have a new way of thinking about the topics we discuss, pass it on. I want to engage with all of you in this space as together we make sense of today’s media industry.

Scott Dryburgh joined CSC in 2015 as the Industry Lead for Media with responsibility for UK projects in broadcast, publishing, advertising and entertainment. Prior to joining CSC, he worked across a broad range of clients and was responsible for transforming multi-faceted businesses using a creative and entrepreneurial approach.



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  1. Nice article Scott. In a data driven age, Media, arguably should be driving the most value from it’s valuable resources.


    • Thanks Paul. Its interesting to see some Media embracing this and making big bets like launching SlingTV, whilst others are just waking upto the importance and the possibilities of value from data.


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