Monday, September 21, 2009

Digital Equals Measurable

I was at a media event last week when someone from the traditional media side (not my company, I should add) went into a big rant about 'what is digital?'

I really don't see where the confusion comes in. 'Digital' isn't an abstract concept, like 'Girl Power'; it's pretty easy to define and visualise.

Are posters digital? Yes, if they're digital posters
Is mobile digital? Yes, almost all mobile is through digital networks these days
Is press digital? Yes, if it's online... & so on.

The main thing about 'digital' is that the content and data is transferred digitally, and this means that you can often collect it and count it. This is what I love about digital media - admittedly I'm a bit of a geek - we're constantly finding new and unusual ways of measuring actual data, not just surveying people. (& that's why Omniture, a digital measurement company was sold for $1.8bn last week.)

Some relatively random recent examples:

Video: Services like Visible Measures can track and aggregate the number of views of a video across all the major video platforms in the world - they were able to show that Thriller received 28m views across all sites in the week after Michael Jackson died.

Social Media: While the twitter user base is not demographically representative, the site provides lots of data that can be aggregated and analysed. At university we used to do content analysis on newspaper stories; content analysis on twitter can looks at hundreds of thousands of posts and return findings like 20% of tweets are related to brands or products, or 15% of tweets can be classified as 'porn spam'

Mobile: Mobile ad servers can show the direct response rates of mobile ads, and demonstrate that the average click rates on mobile ads are approximately half those of online ads. Of course the click is not the only reaction an ad is intended to create, but it does show that apps and content are likely to be more powerful communications devices with mobile, and luckily you can measure the popularity of different apps.

Finally, you can be very creative about what you measure, and get high-sample size results for the strangest things. The free dating site OkCupid did this last week with this study of the response rates to emails sent on their sites, based on the content of the emails.

"#1 – Be literate. Netspeak, bad grammar, and bad spelling are huge turn-offs. Our negative correlation list is a fool’s lexicon: ur, u, wat, wont, and so on. These all make a terrible first impression. In fact, if you count hit (and we do!) the worst 6 words you can use in a first message are all stupid slang.
Language like this is such a strong deal-breaker that correctly written but otherwise workaday words like don’t and won’t have nicely above average response rates (36% and 37%, respectively).

Interesting exceptions to the “no netspeak” rule are expressions of amusement. haha (45% reply rate) and lol (41%) both turned out to be quite good for the sender. This makes a certain sense: people like a sense of humor, and you need to be casual to convey genuine laughter. hehe was also a successful word, but much less so (33%).

Scientifically, this is because it’s a little evil sounding.
So, in short, it’s okay to laugh, but keep the rest of your message grammatical and punctuated."

& that's the thing about digital - so much is potentially measurable, and you can really start to have fun when you think about what to do with the data that you collect.

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