Data Is Now The Story, Not The Source

Content strategies based on data are seeing major success


When writing about Big Data in content marketing, most people go to the basic idea that what is written is shaped by the data that has previously been seen. So when I write an article on Hadoop and lots of people read it, I will make sure to write more about it.

However, what we are seeing is that Big Data is not what informs what should be written, but that it is increasingly becoming the story itself.

The Guardian and The New York times were two of the first major news sites to truly take this to heart and invest significantly in the practice. Through creating data driven articles, infographics and interactive content, they have created compelling and complex stories easy to understand. It has also given more credibility to their other reporting as the numbers speak for themselves rather than playing on conjecture.

One of the problems with this is that the data being used is often given to them and generally known and open to the public anyway so the data chosen to appear in these reports can be wrong. The reason for this is simply that the most compelling content will come from new findings that show something totally different to what was previously believed or measured. In fact it was found in the reproducability that only 14.4% of reports featured in three leading psychology journals could be repeated, with most findings being wrong. The reason they had been included was because of their shock value and the same is undoubtedly true wherever you go.

So to get around this and often find far more interesting data, companies are turning to their own data in order to make interesting data content. Jawbone are a key example of this, mapping how people reacted to an earthquake, how often people in different places slept and how your commute affects your sleep patterns.

It is not only outwardly data driven companies who are using their data to drive their content strategy either, OK Cupid have seen significant success from their data efforts with their work being picked up by significant media outlets. They used their data to find out about what to say when approaching somebody on their site, ethnographic trends amongst their user base and even the best questions for a first date.

However, using your own data can give a company an entirely new personality.

The biggest winners from this have been PornHub who provide considerable amounts of data insights about their audience, trends and analyses on their insights page. Through using this high-brow approach and not presenting it in a smutty way, they have managed to begin to change their perception from a smut peddler to an informed and clever site. This is all thanks to the data they use and how they visualize it.

Through using genuine and insightful data, each of these companies have managed to create a following around their research. They are not even that prolific, OK Cupid haven’t published anything since last September, PornHub only do so around once per month and Jawbone do so roughly once per fortnight. However, with the level of analysis and detail in the posts, they are widely shared. According to Alexandra Samuel from HBR, infographics are the type of content that is most likely to be widely shared on social media, making it one of the best ways to promote yourself moving forward. 

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