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English articles, Local search, Media, Top Tasks

Big Data and how data ownership loses importance

If Big Data is changing one aspect of the data driven online world, then it is data ownership. For publishers, owning data may not be the key issue any longer. The user interface becomes the basis for success. And for success, it is important to know what the customer wants to do when he or she goes online.

Hardly any environment where this could become more obvious than the directory industry, the playground of the yellow pages publishers and the business information directories. The European Association of Search and Database Publishers (as their professional association in Europe is called) helt its 48th congress in Amsterdam on 19-20 September. The theme was “Big Data, Local Future – Local Data, Big Future”.

Summary
Content is no longer king. Context never really was king. The customer task – the reason the customer goes online, what he or she wants to achieve in an online session – is king of kings. The user interface essentially is how the website, the mobile site, the app supports the customer’s task. Local search being one of the absolute toptasks of the web, big data and the user interface are really where the battle over the local search revenues will be fought.

The program of this conference was put together by yours truly. Since 1996, I have brought together countless speakers and subjects in 18 conference programs I constructed for the EASDP.

Needless to say that this industry constantly has been in a phase of transition – it will go on for some more time, that’s for sure. Business directory books have disappeared since about ten years. Telephone books and yellow pages books are almost extinct. Online has taken over completely. Mobile local search is emerging strongly.

During their history, directories prided themselves in having excellent quality databases with merchants and companies, with product listings and categories. And they had. They invested and still invest heavily in the data, the content that bring sellers and buyers together.

Online search – well, Google – changed all that. The contact information, the listing, became a commodity. Machines and crawlers collect contact details, opening hours, product descriptions and much, much more into gigantic databases that serve the web visitors as well as the advertising sales reps. You now see the basic contact details in the search result summaries already, before going to any website.

Yellow page publishers enrich their content. They team up with reviews and recommendation publishers, with new players who manage bookings and agendas, with many types of innovative services. Most of them team up with Google as adwords resellers.

And now, as more than one speaker in Amsterdam stressed, not the data are the key issue, but the user interface. How the website combines data from countless sources into a user-friendly and, most important, into a useful and efficient service determines whether the service publisher or the app publisher gets an audience allowing him to make a living on bringing buyers and sellers together.

In local search, there are few top tasks: people are looking for a service or a product to buy and want a reliable supplier as soon as possible and as reliable as possible.

The customer task is king of kings

Countless start-ups are creative in combining data from – well, from wherever, without owning them. And they are successful. They may have not much of a brand name but they take advantage of the viral effect of social mobile media. A growing audience relies on them to complete their local search top task.

The big brands in the yellow pages and business information industry have understood and are adapting, yet, they find it difficult to leave their old habits of investing in data quality. No problem with that, as long as they understand that combining big data in the most efficient user interface possible will make them survive.

Content is king became context is king. The customer task – the reason the customer goes online, what he or she wants to achieve in an online session – is king of kings. The user interface essentially is how the website, the mobile site, the app supports the customer’s task. Local search being one of the absolute toptasks of the web, big data and the user interface are really where the battle over the local search revenues will be fought.

In retail, in banking, in insurance and a number of industries, owning the data will continue to be important. However, the real boom in data services will only take place where and when countless creative minds combine data they don’t own. Local search is only one example, though a very good one. Local search leads the pack in more than one way. Has done so many times in history, in all its previous media platforms.

About Toon Lowette

Customer is not king on the internet, he is dictator. Online services are successful if they allow the customer to do what he came for efficiently and without confusion. Toon Lowette is online publishing consultant in the Customer Carewords network of Gerry McGovern. Task management is the central issue. We teach websites to manage the task, not the content, not the technology. We teach websites to become relentlessly customer centric.

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