Thanks to big data, most corporations now know more about their customers than at any other point in history. Technology allows businesses to track spending, research, travel, and just about everything else related to commerce.
And media companies are especially knowledgeable about how their users consume programming and content, as well as their social interactions.
So with mountains of data available with just a couple of keyboard strokes, what is the value of actually meeting customers, users, listeners, and viewers face-to-face?
Our company loves research. As I write this post, 10,000 people around North America have already taken our 13th annual Techsurvey. In just a few weeks, we’ll have massive spreadsheets with thousands of different data points, providing feedback on media and tech variables that include mobile, social, streaming, and automotive.
And yet, we continue to conduct focus groups, one-on-one interviews, and ethnographic encounters year after year. None of these exercises generates data, they aren’t “accurate,” nor are they necessarily representative of larger populations.
But they are valuable in ways that data, metrics, and quantitative research cannot replicate.
Even with reams of numbers, there is value and benefit to listening to people, understanding their circumstances, and connecting with them.
In many ways, that’s part of the story of the media and pollsters’ collective disconnect during the Presidential election. If it was just about data, the outcome would have been predictable. And the aftermath would have easily fallen into place.
In fact, for too many who analyze these events for a living, mysterious abound. Perhaps some of the reasons why is that the data will only get you so far. It’s that messy human part that often blocks our ability to comprehend what really happens.
Mark Zuckerberg may be well on the path to figuring it out. As the founder of Facebook, he has more data at his fingertips than perhaps any person in the world. Forget about his fortunes. His knowledge of what we do, when we do it, and our emotional state at any given point in time is vast. In many ways, he may be one of the most powerful people on the planet because his constituency is truly broad and international.
And in 2017, his goal is to have visited every state in the U.S. with the purpose to “get out and talk to more people about how they’re living, working, and thinking about the future.”
Doesn’t he know this stuff? Facebook data is a reflection of the human condition, and yet, Zuckerberg is acknowledging the power of the personal touch – of looking people right in the eye to learn more about them and their lives.
As he notes, technology has made the world a smaller place. “This has created many benefits, but for a lot of people, it has also made life more challenging. This has contributed to a greater sense of division that I have felt in my lifetime. We need to find a way to change the game so it works for everyone.”
That division he speaks about plays out on Facebook every minute of every day. Zuckerberg has the data in which to track it, but it’s the interpersonal piece that he knows he needs to complete the story.
According to Recode, he’s already visited 20 states, so that means he’ll have an aggressive itinerary for 2017.
This was also a reminder to us about the importance of the Millennial Research Project we’re in the process of conducting for 15 stakeholder public radio stations under the auspices of PRPD. Between Nielsen, proprietary research, and our Public Radio Techsurveys, we have no shortage of numbers from which to understand young people – who they are and why they do what they do.
But the missing piece is spending time with them, listening to them, and taking it all in. Only then does the data ring true.
Jacobs Media has consistently walked the walk in the digital space, providing insights and guidance through its well-read national Techsurveys.
In 2008, jacapps was launched - a mobile apps company that has designed and built more than 1,000 apps for both the Apple and Android platforms. In 2013, the DASH Conference was created - a mashup of radio and automotive, designed to foster better understanding of the "connected car" and its impact.
Along with providing the creative and intellectual direction for the company, Fred consults many of Jacobs Media's commercial and public radio clients, in addition to media brands looking to thrive in the rapidly changing tech environment.