It started out with the exabyte, a unit of information so large it could contain the entire Library of Congress a thousand time over. Then came the zettabyte, which encompassed every word ever spoken by humans. Now people were talking in yottabytes which are so large…
“Yada, yada yada bytes,” interjected Tim Schigel, CEO of ShareThis. “The volume of data will continue to expand. What matters is how fast you can process it and how well you can filter out the signal from the noise.”
The four panelists at Mesa’s event last night, The New Marketing Math, are all crunching massive amount of information in order to help big brands make more educated decisions about which customers to target, when and in what way. It’s Madison Avenue cross bred with quantum physics.
The LinkedIn IPO was fresh in the minds of the hundred or so founders and venture capitalists in attendance. “When a company debuts at $9 billion based on minimal revenues and no projected profit, is that a sign that their data is incredibly valuable, or that Wall Street has lost its mind,” asked the moderator, Mesa’s managing director Paul Noglows.
What gave LinkedIn’s collection of user such a premium, explained Proclivity founder Sheldon Gilbert, was its corporate context. “I’ve been told that Goldman Sachs uses LinkedIn data to measure the stability of a company. If that helps them make better investments, then they have extracted quite a bit of value.”
The companies on the panel all relied heavily on information made public by users through sites like Facebook and Twitter to help understand consumer behavior. In the end, who owned that data, the social networks, the users or the companies that made use of them?
“It’s about respect and transparency,” said Tom Phillips, CEO of Media6Degrees. “As long as you maintain the users trust, then the data is there for marketing purposes.”
Proclivity’s Sheldon Gilbert saw things a little differently. “You have to make a distinction between data and metadata. If we take public information and use it to derive some new insights, then we own those end results. For us, we are gathering data from retailers who have been throwing away 90 percent of this information up until now, because they couldn’t make sense of it.”
All four of the companies in attendance could claim major blue chip brands among their customer base. But it was becoming clear that a point in the near future, the government would enter into the conversation, perhaps with an consumers bill of rights or a more potent enforcement of opt-out clauses for personal data. “At this point, when the industry is still growing and changing so rapidly, any attempt to regulate would arbitrarily destroy value,” said Frank Speiser, co-founder of SocialFlow.