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The Multi-Billion Dollar Industry That Makes Its Living From Your Data

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The Multi-Billion Dollar Personal Data Ecosystem

The Multi-Billion Dollar Industry That Makes Its Living From Your Data

In the ocean ecosystem, plankton is the raw material that fuels an entire food chain. These tiny organisms on their own aren’t that remarkable, but en masse, they have a huge impact on the world.

Here on dry land, the massive volume of content and meta data we produce fuels a marketing research industry that is worth nearly $50 billion. Every instant message, page click, and step you take now produces a data point that can be used to build a detailed profile of who you are.

Every breath you take, Every move you make

The coarse-grained demographics and contact information of yesteryear seems quaint compared to today’s sophisticated data collection battleground. In the past, marketers would make judgement calls on your likely income and family structure based on where you lived, and you’d receive “targeted” mail and calls from telemarketers. Loyalty programs and the emergence of web analytics pushed things a little further.

Today, the steady march of technological advancement has created a vast data collection empire that measures every aspect of your digital life and, increasingly, your offline life as well. Facebook alone uses nearly one hundred data points to target ads to you – everything from your marital status to whether you’ve been on vacation lately or not. Telecoms have access to extremely detailed information on your location. Apple has biometric data.

Also watching your every move are web trackers. “Cookie-syncing” is one of the sneaky ways advertisers can follow you around the internet. Basically, cookie-syncing allows third parties to share browsing information at such a large scale that even the NSA “piggybacks” off them for surveillance purposes.

The recent sales growth of smart speakers will only increase the breadth of data companies collect and analyze. Amazon and Google have both filed patents for technology that would essentially allow them to mine audio recordings for keywords. Advertisers could potentially target you with diapers before your family and friends even know you’re expecting a baby.

Following the ones and zeros

While web trackers and companies like Apple and Google are collecting a lot of personal and behavioral data, it’s the whales of the data ecosystem – data brokers – who are creating increasingly detailed profiles on almost everyone.

Data brokers trade on the privacy of consumers and operate in the shadows.

– Senator Al Franken (D-Minn)

The goal of data brokers, such as Experian or Acxiom, is to siphon up as much personal data as possible and apply it to profiles. This data comes from a wide variety of sources. Your purchases, financial history, internet activity, and even psychographic attributes are mixed with information from public records to create a robust dossier. Digital profiles are then sorted into one of thousands of categories to help optimize advertising efforts.

Fear the shadow profile?

According to Pew Research, 91% of Americans “agree” or “strongly agree” that people have lost control over how personal information is collected and used.

Though optimizing clickthroughs is a big business, companies are increasingly moving beyond advertising to extract value from their growing data pipeline. Amalgamated data is increasingly being viewed as a clever way to assess risk in the decision-making process (e.g. hiring, insurance, loan or housing applications), and the stakes for consumers are going up in the process.

For example, a man may feel comfortable sharing their HIV status on Grindr (for practical reasons), but may not want that information going to a third party. (Unfortunately, that really happened.)

In 2015, Facebook filed a patent for a service that would help insurance companies vet people based on the credit ratings of their social network.

The More You Know

Below the surface of our screens, our digital profiles continue to take shape.

Measures like adjusting website privacy controls and clearing cookies are a good start, but that’s only a fraction of the data companies are collecting. Not only do data brokers make it hard to officially opt out, their partnerships with corporations and advanced data collection methods cast such a wide net, that it’s almost impossible to exclude individual people.

Data brokers have operated with very little scrutiny or oversight, but that may be changing. Under intense public and governmental pressure, Facebook recently cut ties with data brokers. For a company that has bullishly pursued monetization of user data at every turn, the move is a sign that the public sentiment is changing.

The more information on the personal data industry, visit Cracked Labs’ report on the issue.

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How the eSports Industry Fares Against Traditional Sports

eSports has evolved into a billion dollar industry in just a decade, but how does it fare against traditional sports when it comes to monetization?

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How the eSports Industry Fares Against Traditional Sports

In just a decade, electronic sports (eSports) has evolved from an underground culture into a mainstream industry worth billions of dollars today.

The industry is growing at an explosive rate, and with major tech giants like Amazon and Google vying for a piece of the pie, the future of this industry is an exciting one.

It’s no surprise that eSports is often compared to its predecessor, traditional sports. However, eSports certainly has none of the typical confines of a traditional sport—so how does it compare in terms of audience size, market potential, and revenue?

An Equal Playing Field?

eSports is an umbrella term for competitions played on electronic systems, typically by professional video gamers—with the first competition dating back to 1972.

The 16 to 24-year-old audience has increased by 60% since 2017, fueling the rapid growth of this emerging industry. The global audience is expected to grow to 276 million by 2022, with League of Legends tournaments often boasting a higher viewership than some of the biggest U.S. leagues:

Cumulative Viewership (2017 finals)

  • NFL Super Bowl: 124 million viewers
  • League of Legends: 58 million viewers
  • MLB World Series: 38 million viewers
  • NBA Finals: 32 million viewers
  • NHL Stanley Cup Finals: 11 million viewers

While viewership can surpass that of well-known professional leagues, it doesn’t yet stack up in terms of monetization. That said, this aspect is now increasing enough to be seen as a threat to more traditional leagues.

How Much is eSports Worth?

According to Goldman Sachs, eSports will exceed $1 billion in revenue in 2019, and reach $3 billion by 2022. eSports creates the foundation for an entire ecosystem of opportunities, which include live-streaming, game development, player fanbases, and brand investments for sponsorship and advertising—where 82% of revenue currently comes from.

Although eSports under-indexes on monetization relative to the size of its audience, there is a huge opportunity for it to close the gap, given the predicted 35% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for total eSports revenue between 2017 and 2022.

Getting Attention from the World’s Biggest Players

The success of eSports tournaments is attributed to live-streaming platforms. Amazon’s purchase of leading video-streaming site, Twitch, allowed Amazon to tap into the rapidly growing eSports audience, along with other live-streaming opportunities. Since the acquisition in 2014, the number of average viewers has doubled to 15 million, half of YouTube’s daily viewership.

Google, which lost the bidding war for Twitch, has recently made its own big move into gaming with cloud gaming service Google Stadia. Ultimately, the company hopes it will help keep live-streamers on YouTube instead of competing platforms.

The Future of eSports

Over time, eSports will tap into bigger advertising budgets, and reach national, regional, and global levels, as traditional sports are able to. eSports will also be a medal event in the 2022 Asian Games, which could pave the way for full Olympic status.

As a whole, eSports is starting to seriously compete with the big leagues. With a massive worldwide appeal, passionate fans, and billion-dollar revenues, the industry is only beginning to take flight.

The debate however, is not around the battle between eSports and traditional sports. It is around the shift to celebrating a culture that is completely virtual, over one that is physical—which has much bigger implications.

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Ranked: The 10 Organizations With the Best (and Worst) Reputations

According to a representational poll of 18,228 Americans, these are the organizations considered to have the best and worst reputations.

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There is no shortcut to gaining a bulletproof reputation.

To get there, businesses not only need to think long term, but they also need to do what is considered “right” in every possible situation.

Aspiring companies must be truly customer-centric, going above and beyond in how they treat their customers. They also require a cohesive vision that helps create a loyal and fervent fanbase that will go to bat for them anytime it’s needed.

The Best and Worst Reputations in America

Today’s infographic from TitleMax highlights the 10 organizations that have the best reputations in the country, followed by 10 that fall on the exact opposite end of the spectrum.

In total, the visualization shows five years of data, so you can see how the rankings have changed over this stretch of time.

Ranked: The 10 Organizations With the Best (and Worst) Reputations

As you can see, the reputations of organizations are very much in flux.

In fact, you can even see the impact of recent news cycles on the rankings for 2019.

For example, Patagonia shot up the rankings to become the #3 most respected company after donating its entire $10 million tax cut to environmental groups, while the U.S. government and Facebook both make an appearance on the worst list, thanks to recent negative media coverage.

The Best Reputations Over Five Years

If you haven’t heard of Wegmans Food Market, you might want to stop by a location the next time you’re in the Northeast.

With 99 stores and about $9 billion in revenue per year, this family-run supermarket chain believes that in order to be a great place to shop, it must also be a great place to work. This mantra must be effective, since Wegmans consistently ranks as having one of the best reputations in the entire country.

Also ranking high on the list is Amazon, which was founded as an “obsessively” customer-oriented company. The online retailer has taken the #1 spot in the rankings in three of the last five years, despite a generally negative sentiment hanging over tech giants in recent months.

“A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.”

— Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com

The Worst Reputations Over Five Years

As Warren Buffett quipped, a reputation can be built over decades, but it can also be lost in just five minutes.

Various companies that have experienced recent scandals make the list here (i.e., Facebook, Volkswagen, Equifax). It’s also interesting to see that years after each scandal, rankings seem to normalize as the media and public get preoccupied with newer events.

Ranking Methodology

The ranking is based on a survey by Harris Poll, in which the 100 Most Visible Companies in the country are scored and ranked using a proprietary “Reputation Quotient”. For the 2019 edition, the poll had 18,228 respondents from a nationally representative sample.

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