Today’s media myth: Quantitative data is all you need to develop the next media hit
I see a lot of people making this assumption. All you need are stats and business KPIs to make great media.
This is so wrong. Even the most hard-nosed traffic guru or “growth hacker” knows that the best way to get great numbers is by having great media to work with.
Here’s the other thing with just looking at the numbers to make creative decisions: Most of the quantitative data will point you to what worked in the past. And, as any experienced media person will know, what’s hot this year may very well be a flash in the pan or a one-hit wonder, as the creator of Gangnam Style can attest!
Lots of people trot out examples of big media companies that have succeeded on a metrics-driven strategy. However, companies like Zynga (creators of Farmville and Zynga Poker) have been failing in recent years, as its string of copycat games and acquisitions fail to generate much interest. Famously, it uses A/B testing to make creative decisions, and doesn’t give its creative people much room to experiment or develop their own visions. As noted in the Amplitude blog:
According to Andrew Trader, a member of the founding team, Zynga’s most important corporate value was its focus on metrics. At the time, not many game studios were tracking their users, and game design was still largely based on gut instinct and user feedback rather than numbers. From the start, Zynga differed from other gaming companies by hiring product managers from finance or consulting backgrounds, who were used to approaching problems analytically. The company promoted data transparency. Everyone had stakes in the metrics, from software engineers, to the product managers, to the CEO. Zynga executives stressed the importance of having both art (the ability to generate great game ideas) and science (the ability to test and find out whether the ideas are any good). The following slide is from a presentation that Ken Rudin, Zynga’s former VP of Analytics, gave in 2010.
Zynga has since laid off thousands of people in the past 5 years, and revenue has been flat:
And, while data-driven companies like Amazon and Netflix are doing very well with new video and film content, they don’t only work by the numbers — they have some of the most talented creative people in Hollywood coming up with ideas and developing them in concert with both quantitative data and qualitative feedback. With the huge budgets and development timelines at their disposal, Netflix and Amazon aren’t taking a lean approach, but what they are doing depends on a big creative vision, not just a numbers-based popularity concept.