There is a lot of hype related to “information as an asset”. One driver relates to how organizations are seeking to create a wholly new revenue stream through the monetization of their data. Though not really a new idea, it has new impetus due primarily to the growing hype related to big data. If there is more data, isn’t there more opportunity to make money on data and the insight that can be derived from it?
The print edition of the Wall Street Journal today (May 22 2013) had two articles with conflicting views. One story talks about the pending success from selling data. The other is about a less-than-successful story about selling data. Perhaps there are some valuable pointers here.
The Bright Side of Big Data
In “Phone Firms Sell Data on Customers”, the large phone companies were reportedly selling, or preparing to sell, aggregated information about how, where and when we access inforamtion from our phone/mobile devices. The point being that retailers and brand owners (and maybe others) are interested in understanding what web sites we might access when our physical location is related to their business. For example, if I am at a hardware or consumer electronic store, and 80% of visitors are known to visit a competitor site while on site (presumably to compare prices, features), that inforamtion could be used to target marketing dollars more effectively (even if the where and how is not totally clear, at this time).
There are clear privacy issues here – though the report emphasized that the data in question here is not meant to be granular (identifying you or me) but it is meant to be aggregated. However, the report does suggest that data being sold/shared might identify the source down to a few miles – so there are bound to be ways to triangulate on speific identities.
Certainly this opportunity is big, and hot. There is a growing amouint of this type of data, and ability to discover patterns and insight from it, is what big data is all about. But it is not always roses…
Big Data is Old News
A few pages after the “phone firms sell data” story was another: “Auto Dealers’ Suit Stalls Shopping of Carfax’s Owner”. The bottom line of this article was that R.L. Polk & Co., itself up for sale, has not built a highly profitable, growth business. Polk provides car companies and consumer (big) data on autos and their history, including accident and damage data, as well as other data you can see via Carfax. The point is that this is an early big data story – even before big data was the story. Yet the profit for Polk was perhaps insufficiant to build a sustainable business. It might be viable – but given that it is up fro sale, and not acquiing other companies, is an interesting point
Does this mean big data might be bad business? It could be that the opportunity for auto data has passed; the auto industry – though big – is not exactly the hive of growth. But I think the point is clear. The data itself may or may not assure success; having an idea for the kind of value that can be derived from it is probably far more important than the data itself. Perhaps consumer data related to the growth in mobile has more opportuinty today than consumer data related to vastly depreciating assets.