By Jonas Olofsson.
Data is a hot topic with huge ambitions. From what we hear from tech evangelists, "Big Data" might just disrupt and transform everything from how we understand our cities and education, to healthcare and finance. There's no stopping data now. A search in this year's SXSW schedule generated 150 results of interesting talks and panels where data was a key theme. Among them: Maps of Time: Data As Narrative, Data Is the New Oil: Wealth and Wars on the Web,Big Data: Privacy Threat or Business Model?, Future of Cities: Technology in Public Service, Dealing with the Media Data Explosion, and Data Vis Is Dead, Long Live Data Vis!. I didn't have time to go to them all but one talk stayed with me because it narrowed my imagination (a good thing!) and made me think about data from a specific perspective: the consumer's.
I would say 83.7% of all "data" articles and blogposts I come across are about big data, linked data/semantic web, data mining or privacy. The other 16.3% areabout infographics and data visualizations. So when I listened to Richard Ayers's talk, Datatainment: Soccer Sexes-Up Spreadsheets (great topic, worst title), about how the British football club Manchester City plans to release a suite of data products based on multiple data feeds from the football players and season statistics, I was positively surprised and inspired. I scribbled down a note about the 'evolution of data':
Data as intelligence --> Data as information ---> Data as entertainment
I realize this is a very crude generalization (and a pretty pretentious one). But my point is that new layers of opportunity for how data can be used are being added as more and larger data sets are becoming available. Most of [strike data products around today have a B2B focus. Data in its raw form is the basic business currency of the web, a raw material for data mining, business intelligence, targeted advertising; the only consumer experience at this stage relates to privacy concerns. Data as information has a consumer-facing side but it's often static or with pre-defined interactions, e.g. in products such as data visualizations and infographics. The main purpose is to inform, rather than engage. A third category, and a natural next step, would be to take data as the starting point when developing digital entertainment.
I think this is interesting because many media products serve one of two purposes (or both): to inform or to entertain. Yet, it seems only the information leg has been transformed by the data trend so far. There are a number of interesting examples of media companies who work with data-driven intelligence (e.g. Financial Times, Amazon, Netflix), as are there examples of organizations that experiment with data as information (e.g. Guardian, New York Times,Visual.ly), but there are still very few examples of data being used as the foundation for entertainment products. There's no lack of consumer demand for entertainment (big media businesses such as TV, magazines, and cinema are built around it) but there is a lack of new digital entertainment experiences.
We're starting to see experimentation happening in sports and second-screen TVapps. New kinds of live experiences are being built with social and live data feeds as their DNA, making them much more engaging and interactive as entertainment. For example:
Heineken Star Player – a virtual game built on top of live data feeds from real Champions League soccer matches that allows players to react to events on the pitch in real-time and predict what will happen at key moments such as corners, free kicks and penalties to score points. (link)
Fantasy Election 12 – taking inspiration from fantasy sports, MTV is packaging politics and the US presidential election as live entertainment. The election game is built on data feeds from partners Politifact (“Truth-O-Meter” scores), RealClearPolitics (polling numbers), GetGlue (check-ins to TV debates) and Foursquare (check-ins to town hall events) which serve as the base for determining whether the players' candidates will be rewarded points for "exhibiting behaviors voters deserve" or penalized and deducted points for "behaviors that hurt democracy.” (link)
Sofanatics – builds virtual stadiums based on social data sets that let sports fans interact with each other and virtually show support for their teams. The service visualizes all social data that fans create during a match in real-time. There's a toolbox of virtual cheering actions such as waving, jumping, crying, broadcastingJumbotron messages but also virtual goods and premium actions like dropping confetti, lighting fireworks and raining on the opposing team’s side of the stadium. (link)
I believe Datatainment is emerging as a new digital product category and great business opportunity for media companies. We just need to get over the idea that data is merely a tech trend.