The future online and everywhere is analytics


This is getting old for many people who know me, but recently a friend turned me on to a book that I would have never read because I’m not a baseball fan: Moneyball. It’s a great book. But there are two ways of reading it; as a baseball fan or as a business and analytics fan. Count me as the latter.

Moneyball proves much of what I’ve been hyping for a long time. That analytics could, should and will breathe life into many businesses that have never thought it would ever be of value to their industry. An example is the newspaper industry. Why can’t analytics go beyond the web and into the newsrooms? It should also be a part of the marketing and sales. It should be approached more in social media and a must in all online sales and marketing.

Instead of talking about every industry and how they could help, I’ll just cue up a few examples.

Newspapers have been deep into trying to solve all their issues. Every day someone is hypothesizing about how to save the industry, but one thing I never see discussed is analytics. Why aren’t reporters being valued based on readership and interactivity online? There are many tools for which to value journalism. ROI can be had with analytics. Heresy I know, but why is it that the values of employees in most industries have a monetary value to their company and journalists don’t? The same can be done for a wait staff. A bank teller. A car salesman. The mailman. The list doesn’t end. This isn’t about producing some scary Orwellian world. It’s about refining business and if ever there was a place and time to put value to all aspects of business 2009 is a great time to start.

Newspaper marketing and sales is another area that should be built on a foundation of analytics. If we can learn anything from Karl Rove it’s that you can know a lot about every neighborhood in every county of every state. You can find friends and weed out enemies. Newspapers need to do the same. When they want to find new subscribers a newspaper’s marketing team should do what a smart campaign manager would do and segment the population rather than carpet bombing large areas. Marketing is about the niches and talking directly to them not by creating one funny zinger and trying to advertise with that on radio, television and everywhere you can. Think about how a campaign manager would advertise to these individuals. One would advertise pro/anti abortion to certain people. They’d advertise environment to another. And advertise religion to another. And guns to another. And so on and so on. There could be 30 different campaigns. There could be 100. It’s not cheap, but it’s targeted and far more effective. Don’t let okay beat great. How do you do all this? Analytics.

Finally, social media should have an ROI. Sure, there are instances where you should just use social media to spread brand awareness, but a smart marketer could show ROI for a campaign. There are many ways to establish ROI. Click-throughs might work for a company that earns revenue from online advertising or is seeking to increase brand awareness. Anyone that sells something online would want to understand conversions (the ratio of those who clicked through to your website compared to those who purchased a product). There is also some value in knowing who did something in between. Drop out rates can be interesting as well if certain trends start to form. Only analytics can shine the light.

Social tools like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube etc. have ROI. You just have to understand what to measure and how to measure. This is where analytics comes into play. The problem is that most individuals only value clicks and not some other form of value. Registrations could be of value. Mailing a brochure. Building a profile. Telling a friend via a share tool. There are many ways to track and produce value and analytics can be the golden ticket–but before you can build the tool you have to know what is valuable to you. Analytics is gold but only if you mine for it first.

Finally, when you are trying to solve a problem for your company, or a client, how do you want to be able to answer this question: “Do you think or do you know?”
If you are using analytics you should always be able to answer “I know.”


  1. I am particularly interested in the problems currently faced by journalism and your suggestions certain seem right on point and it can be expanded to the very nature of something like news papers themselves. News papers have more and more moved away from targeting the specific populations they are supposed to be serving and have, instead, moved towards offering large articles about national or global concerns thought to be of interest generally. This has failed because the large issues are available through too many sources, many of which are free. News papers need to target the populations they sell to, which means returning the very local and specific concerns. There are some great interviews with top journalists about this, and other, points at,com_sectionex/Itemid,200076/id,8/view,category/#catid69 which I have found useful.