Big Data. It’s the term Americans are using a lot to describe the age in which we now live.
David Dhanpat of Hofstra’s Lawrence Herbert School of Communication visited with my students this week and demonstrated Google Analytics, the free program which attaches to a web site or blog. The amount of information Google Analytics yield is astounding. Link it to your site and discover how many people have visited over a specified period of time. From that number you’ll learn how many are repeat visitors and how many are “unique,” or first-time visitors. Then you can learn whether they came to your site directly, through a search engine, or a referring site (a link from elsewhere). Want to know how many web pages the average visitors sees per visit? Would you like to find out how minutes and seconds the average user stays on each page? How many are on your site right now? How does this moment compare with the exact moment a year ago? From which country are they viewing the site? Which server or cable provider do they use? If they’re on their smart phone, what is the operating system? The depth and detail of the data is almost frightening.
When the World Wide Web was young, many pondered, “How is anyone gonna make any money off this thing?” There were few mechanisms for purchasing and there was no way to effectively advertise. Its PR use wasn’t considered much. Amazon, eBay and others came along and answered the purchasing question. Increasingly, advertising found its way into every blog, platform and web site. But nothing has served marketing departments more than the ability to collect vast amounts of data through various analytics programs, and no one is doing it better than Google.
Why this thirst for data? Many believe it’s not all about the government watching you. It’s more about how, where and to whom companies and organizations can sell products, services and ideas. Big Data is not all about spying; it’s about marketing, advertising and PR. Either way, it’s a brave new world. Your thoughts?