For small publishers, what’s the point in Big Data?

What's New in Publishing 08 Apr 2021 06:17

Each month the International Magazine Centre poses a question to Peter Houston, co-host of the Media Voices podcast, and magazine consultant extraordinaire, who will answer in his fabulously inimitable way. 

“We’re a small publisher – what’s the point in Big Data?”

What’s the point indeed?

You might remember, maybe eight or nine years ago, Big Data was all the rage, the ultimate cure for all that ails this connected world. But it didn’t take long for the hype to be called out.

My favourite quote from around that time:

“Big data is bullshit. The ‘Big’ there is purely marketing… This is about you buying big expensive servers,” Harper Reed, CTO, Barrack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.

Big Data has a place, no doubt, but that’s more to do with Big Pharma running complex clinical trials or Big Brother trying to figure out how to keep an eye on you. Only the very biggest publishers get anywhere near having datasets large and complex enough to require anything beyond bog-standard data-processing.

That is a tragically short and oversimplified list ( has a really comprehensive overview of web analytics on their blog), what about page views vs time on page vs social shares for example? But you get the idea: find a measure for the audience behaviours you want to encourage; identify the causes of those positive behaviours; amplify the positives in your offering.

Peter Houston is one third of the Media Voices podcast, a magazine publishing consultant and trainer, and a freelance writer. Follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.

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Peter HoustonInternational Magazine CentreHarper Reed
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