Many times, we in the news media industry become so myopic about how important (or unimportant) we think we are to our readers, we completely lose sight of the true value we do or could bring. This isn’t anything new to you, fellow blog reader, as most of the bloggers within INMA are highlighting this point from various perspectives and sectors from within and outside our industry.

When used appropriately, Big Data should be able to help companies properly communicate with customers.
When used appropriately, Big Data should be able to help companies properly communicate with customers.

Today, I’m offering this perspective from Joe T. Public’s perspective, instead of as a news media industry insider.

Over two recent exhausting weeks, I was immersed in the preparation, surgery, and subsequent post-operative care of my father. This has had me out of my home, out of my current routine, and without access to my normal information points — and stretched thin from a cognitive and energy level perspective.

I found myself feeling disconnected and having to really work to find valuable information, while at the same time bombarded with drivel. (Thanks Facebook. I really wanted to have 90% of my feed filled with political ravings and ridiculous posts, coupled with the redundant posts about the odd gentleman who knits sweaters of places and takes selfies of himself in the place wearing his sweater.)

What struck me is how much data is out there about me, yet how little of it is being smartly applied. In my moments of sheer exhaustion, I had to work to circumvent the “smart” targeting that was coming my way, to find information on what was happening in my home area (not Houston, Texas, where I was temporarily a medical waiting room prisoner).

When I tried to get valuable information about where I was, the targeting was obscenely off and quite insulting. Somehow, due to my location of being in the medical epicenter of Houston and my age, I received every sort of high-risk pregnancy advertisement and blog recommendation for aging mommies. (Thanks a lot!)

With this dichotomy, I realised the lack of a relationship I have with my (or the visiting city’s) newspaper. National and global news sources remain the same, regardless of where you are. That’s the beauty of their game — it’s national/global news and the long-form journalism you go to because you like it or the serendipity of reading what you didn’t know you needed or wanted to know.

I realised the game changer for local newspapers, with the Big Data/predictive analytics abilities most now have in-house, is to provide me with a different offering because you can see I’m out of my norm.

With geo-targeting, and all that they’re tracking, they’d notice I’m out of my normal parameters, geography, and patterns. (If you missed the fantastic webinar from Newsday on predictive analytics, I highly recommend it to give you a taste of what I mean regarding the possibilities of using data to notice what’s considered “out of my norm.”)

Typically, when asked “How can I help you?” people answer honestly. If my visiting city’s newspaper (as a newbie to its site and geography) or my home newspaper noticed I was outside my normal geography and asked, they would have immediately fostered a relationship for which I would be eternally grateful — and it would have further deepened my loyalty to a relationship already formed.

Push versus pull is a delicate game. But data-driven push, providing quality information, or opening a dialogue for “How can I help you?” for anomalies, can provide the relationship boost or brand loyalty your readers (or potential readers) will remember.

Consumers have so many options today for curated everything (meal delivery, wardrobe, wine memberships, Pandora music stations, etc.) that smart curation or delivery of our content how, where, and when we need it normally — and special attention when we’re not in our norm — will make all the difference in engaging or keeping your audience.