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When Will Big Data Come To Local Media?


What will Jeff Bezos do with The Washington Post?

That’s the question on everyone’s lips, and scores of armchair analysts have an opinion. Why he did he do it? What will become of the newspaper’s proud tradition? These are all questions handily dealt with elsewhere. But what about the biggest question of all: So what does it mean to you?

And by “you,” I don’t just mean every print jockey in America. I mean every local media company in America. That’s right — what we used to call all those local TV stations, radio stations and — yes — newspaper companies.

Bezos is a master of disruption and re-creation in a new image. Disrupted newspapers like the Post have already experimented with their fair share of re-creation with unsurprisingly mixed results.

We can talk about what the Post has that nobody else has — the legendary name, the Watergate-busting aura, the journalistic bona fides, the credibility. But what is that to local media companies? Instead, let’s talk about what the Post has that those companies also have.

And on that point, I think Jeff Jarvis hit the nail on the head:

Bezos’ key competence is in building relationships. This is wishful thinking on my part, as I have been arguing that we in journalism need to stop thinking of ourselves as manufacturers of a mass commodity called content and start understanding that we are in a service business whose real outcome is informed individuals and communities. Thus we must be in the relationship business. I have been arguing with newspapers lately that they must gather small data about their individual users — where they live, where they work, what their key interests are — so they can serve people with greater relevance and value. I hope that skill — building profiles and using them to improve relevance — is the first that Bezos brings to the Post.

Not every local TV and radio station and newspaper company is the Washington Post. But every local media company has relationships with their consumers. And these relationships are close, habitual, longstanding and excruciatingly and uniquely local.

It is shocking, then, how little is known about the vast majority of consumers of local media content by the companies which serve up that content daily.

And even more shocking: When data is gathered by local media companies, it’s often in separate, incompatible and dusty databases that can’t conceive of talking to each other in an integrated, useful way…

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