Designing the World of Digital Experience

The Art and Science of Big Data

The new age of content creation is upon us and it’s being driven by Big Data.  The Netflix show, “House of Cards” provides us with the first real glimpse at what this new world looks like. The plot pulls back the curtains of Washington DC to reveal the power plays and manipulations that shape our political world. And the show, much like the storyline, has much more going on behind the scenes.

Data-Driven Creative

It’s worth noting that this breakout program is being produced by Netflix – an internet company that delivers on-demand media.  This is exactly what gives them the Big Data advantage over traditional television networks.  The value of their Big Data research has driven the careful planning and investment of $3.8 million to produce… per show.

“For at least a year, Netflix has been explicit about its plans to exploit its Big Data capabilities to influence its programming choices. “House of Cards” is one of the first major test cases of this Big Data-driven creative strategy.”  –  Andrew Leonard in Salon

Know your Audience – Create Accordingly

It’s not a coincidence or some lucky streak that has this program resonating so well with audiences. The advantage Netflix has over the networks in creating such addictive “must see TV” is their deep data of user preferences that teaches them exactly what appeals to their audience and the most important insight… why.

“Netflix doesn’t know merely what we’re watching, but when, where and with what kind of device we’re watching. It keeps a record of every time we pause the action — or rewind, or fast-forward — and how many of us abandon a show entirely after watching for a few minutes.” Salon 

The creative content is shaped with specific messaging (such as audio, visual, tone, plot, and pacing) that resonates best with the target audience.  In the case of marketing, it can be used to prompt action. These deep user insights informed Netflix on the decision about which actors and directors would be the most profitable.  Based on their research, Davin Fincher was chosen to direct and actor Kevin Spacey was selected to star in the remake of the BBC drama “House of Cards.

The Artist as a Scientist

These two identities do not live within mutually exclusive realms. Rather, by combining data insights with creative intuition, there is an optimum potential that results in economies never before thought possible.

So what then, would this new content production team look like?  This calls for a unique talent hybrid with a blended background of art and science including digital media, data analysis, creative production, and storytelling experience. When the artistry of the creative process merges with the science of big data — the possibilities become intoxicating to the right creative people and the media investment community.

Provided with the right tools, a new perspective begins to emerge that helps decide which opportunities are worth exploring, what kind of impact will be achieved and which decisions will provide the clearest way to systematically deliver valuable content.

As more businesses start tapping into the massive Big Data opportunity, I would expect to see more refinements in localized data which will include local language delivery and unique contextual content.  Can you imagine when advertisers and entertainment companies begin producing content that is tailored to specific segments of the audience?  That opens up a whole new topic to explore!

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