What Journalists Can Teach Us About Big DataThere’s a reason why everyone screams and giggles like little schoolgirls at a Justin Bieber concert when they hear the words “Big Data.” It’s because they understand the importance of knowing their audience. Unfortunately, however, many marketers are so overwhelmed by the volume of data that’s out there, they don’t always know what to do with it.

While many journalists fear that audience data might distract from, or tarnish the traditional image of journalism, there are those who understand its importance. But instead of focusing on increasing page views, these journalists are fixed on appealing to consumers.

The biggest advantage of Big Data? Its ability to help journalists better contextualize their stories. According to Raju Narisetti of News Corp, there are tons of reasons why a story may not get a lot of eyeballs. Sometimes, big stories simply don’t appeal to the general consumer. A major event such as political protest in a tiny European country may make headlines, but it won’t attract readers unless it satisfies one of their content niches.

While some would argue that a given topic shouldn’t get covered, Big Data can help make it relevant. By using information about their audience, journalists can find ways to make “boring” stories more engaging.

analyze all the things   now   by soulshiki d6i5m79At The Atlantic, the same theory is applied. Instead of setting traffic goals each quarter, they use data to discover new areas of interest that readers didn’t even know they had.

In this way, a company’s goals and the audience’s goals are co-aligned.

This popular perspective on Big Data is gaining ground among journalists, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone; data gives businesses an opportunity to grow on numerous levels and there are a variety of ways in which data can be used to a company’s advantage. In fact, a study from Infogroup Targeting Solutions discovered that more than 60 percent of marketers expect to increase their Big Data budgets this year. However, the concern—one that journalists understand all too well—lies in the moment when the focus on numbers supersedes that of content.

And we’ve already seen this happen—cue flashback to the Huffington Post’s article on what time the Super Bowl started and CNN’s coverage of the Twerking epidemic.

So how can content marketers find a happy medium?

Instead of chasing after traffic numbers, go after your audience. Use data to find interesting topics, but also take note from journalists. If you know a topic doesn’t appeal to your audience, find a way to craft it so that it captures their attention. By doing so, you’ll not only gain loyal consumers, but you’ll also find ways to transform dull topics into engaging ones (a common fear of businesses who doubt content will work for them). And if you’re not sure where to get your data from, try using an analytics tool, such as Google Analytics or Parse.ly.

When it comes to content, the goal isn’t to increase ROI. It just happens to be a fantastic side effect.