Art versus science: What’s data got to do with storytelling?

August 14, 2014Uncategorized

As content marketing continues to explode, consumers are being presented with more and more content. But while the amount of content is growing exponentially, the consumer’s attention is not.

To stand out from the crowd, content marketers need to differentiate their content. They need to find ways to ensure their content is relevant and engaging.

One new hope for content marketers is another major explosion: data. When used intelligently, data has a major part to play in storytelling and engaging consumers. We look at the possibilities for content marketers and highlight some of the organisations already using data as part of their storytelling.
The inspiration: Data-driven journalism

Data-driven journalism is already hot in the world of online publishing. Places like The Guardian’s Datablog and The New York Times’ The Upshot present their readers with long-form stories that are underpinned by scientific or statistical research and supported by graphs and other visual representations.

Probably the best example of data-driven journalism is that of Nate Silver. Founder of the FiveThirtyEight blog, Silver is famous for his statistical analysis of US Presidential elections, which resulted in him correctly predicting the outcome in 49 out of 50 states in 2008 and 50 out of 50 states in 2012.
The challenges of data-driven storytelling

Content marketers are following the lead of data-driven journalism, using statistics, facts and figures to underpin their storytelling. One major issue, however, is finding relevant data. As most companies can’t afford to pay for journalists and scientific researchers, content marketers usually look externally for data that can be used as part of a narrative.

What they should be doing instead is looking within their companies. They’re probably already sitting on a treasure trove of data that is just waiting to be repurposed into compelling content.
So who are the front runners?
Some of the best content marketers already using data to drive their storytelling include:


SEEK

SEEK is Australia’s largest job website and, as such, plays a part in finding more jobs for Aussies than anywhere else. The website does a fantastic job of reporting on this data and then putting it to work.

One example is its Marketing & Communications Industry Insights report, which has been compiled from Department of Employment data, as well as SEEK’s internal data. The result is an engaging report that can also be broken into additional pieces of content aimed at specific audiences.


HubSpot

With an abundance of data on their clients, the marketing platform HubSpot is another example of a company that has been putting this information to good use in their content marketing efforts.

HubSpot analysed the data of 150,000 email campaigns and over 6.4 million individual email exchanges before combining it with the results of a survey of its clients. The outcome is the Science of Email 2014 report.

As with SEEK, this extensive data set and report can now be used to produce many more engaging pieces of content. One example is 9 New Insights From the 2014 Science of Email Report, which provides useful information to digital marketers on how to best target their audience using email.


OkCupid

Dating site OkCupid sits on a wealth of data that tracks its users’ trials and tribulations while finding love in the digital world. Armed with this information, OkCupid experiments with key features of its site in order to analyse its users’ behaviours and find out how to best optimise their service. In turn, the data is transformed into content on the site.

One such experiment was the “Love is Blind Day”, timed to correspond with the release of a blind date app. On this particular day, OkCupid removed all pictures from the site and paid very special attention to the results. The data was then used in a blog post, We Experiment on Human Beings!, which showed that people had deeper conversations and more readily exchanged contact details during the experiment.
The opportunities for content marketers

You don’t need to be as big as SEEK or HubSpot to be able access useful and informative data. Most retailers have purchase data that could yield interesting insights about customer trends, especially in terms of geography, demography and seasonality. Similarly, the timesheets of consulting companies could tell us about the type of clients and industries that lead to successful projects rather than problematic ones.

At King Content, we’re fascinated by the idea of data-driven storytelling. We are always looking at our internal data to better understand how content marketing works in various industries and how the practice itself is evolving. Armed with this data, we’ll be able to help our clients tell more compelling stories, and be able to tell more compelling stories right here.