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No Wonder Spotify Needs More Data…

So Spotify has been experiencing a backlash after updating the terms and conditions of their service to access more user data. As always, the outcry will be short-lived unless the small percentage of paying users like myself actually stop a meaningful number of subscriptions.

But it’s made me look again at the ‘Discover Weekly’ playlist that is automatically generated for me and it’s no wonder Spotify needs more data.

  • 30 songs.
  • And 11 or 12 of them I can immediately spot are artists I already have in playlists.
  • 2 or 3 are songs I already have in playlists.
  • And from the rest, another 3 or 4 are songs I wouldn’t put in a playlist in you paid me.

So the success rate in actually finding me something I want to discover is less than 1 in 3. And this is the entertainment data revolution.

You could find a similar success rate by randomly throwing charity shop CDs into a plastic bag and taking them home…

Instead of trying to collate more data, it’d be easier if Spotify just integrated a decent personal recommendation service, like the now-closing ThisIsMyJam. And not keep rolling out a more and more bloated desktop client which has a new version to download almost daily at this point…

On the plus side, the Fresh Finds playlist is still pretty interesting, and there’s the un-algorithmically bollocksed list of New Releases.

Meanwhile Amazon works on the theory that if I’ve watched one police drama via Instant Video, that’s likely to be all I ever want to watch in the future, and Youtube can only recommend a random selection of Vice Media documentaries and the last two American standup comedians I watched. Watching 20 minutes of Amy Schumer apparently means I need to see six interviews with her from American TV shows.

Basically all the data, privacy and information we’re freely giving to large companies results in recommendations as helpful as throwing a dart across the room at an open TV guide.

Meanwhile I finally got around to buying a CD of a live tour I went to see about 7 or so years ago…

VarsityDrag

I’ll look forward to seeing it start appearing in recommendations across all my usual music and entertainment services in about 6 months time….

 

 

 

 

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Fascinating Read About Target Markets in Videogames

There’s an interesting article by Sergey Galyonkin on Medium titled, Your Target Audience Doesn’t Exist, and looking at how PC gaming data from Steam shows that there’s a ‘World of Warcraft’ audience, rather than one for MMORPGs, and a ‘DOTA 2’ audience rather than one for MOBA gaming.

So the result is that certain games create a specific market, but when companies and marketers plan releases, they assume there’s a general market for MMORPGs, MOBAs, First-Person Shooters etc, and that they just need to capture a percentage of it. Which doesn’t actually exist.

In addition to the data Sergey provides on Steam PC gaming, it certainly rings true in my experience. Even if Call of Duty isn’t the only first person shooter around, any gamer can probably name the 3 or 4 titles which own that vertical. In racing games, there are few cross-platform titles which capture the attention of Sony-specific Gran Turismo and Microsoft’s Forza Motorsport (And I’ve spent a fair while looking at FPS games and Racing games).

Picture of a market asking Is your target market really there?

Is your target market really there?

But I’ve started wondering how far that same effect occurs beyond videogames. Entertainment seems the next logical place to look – If people obsessively listen to Beat The Champ by The Mountain Goats (Spotify link), do they want more American indie music? More songs about classic wrestling heroes and themes? Or could it be possible that we only really need one eloquent collection of wrestling themed songs in our life?

In movies, studios tend to emulate the best guesses of other studios and recent success. After all, it’s an industry where William Goldman’s excellent ‘Adventures in the Screen Trade’ has been endlessly quoted;

“Nobody knows anything…… Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work. Every time out it’s a guess and, if you’re lucky, an educated one.”

So if you’ve watched every Fast ‘n’ Furious, do you need the Need for Speed film?

I can answer that question, because you can enjoy the increasingly unbelievable and trashy action adventure of the Fast ‘n’ Furious series, but Need for Speed manages to make racing supercars tedious. Meanwhile 200MPH is often claimed as the worst car film of all time for good reason.

But does it go further than that?

In business and marketing everyone has obsessed over data as the answer to all uncertainty. With enough big data, we can examine the past and present to apparently predict the future as well. Hence the problems when a target set-in-stone isn’t met and exceeded on schedule. And the potential business collapse when share prices are affected.

But the data on videogames suggests that existing general markets don’t necessarily exist. Do we need more than one Facebook or Twitter? How many apps does the average person actually use? (The answer is a handful)?

How much of the explosion of craft beer, coffee and food companies is due to forecasting the potential to steal a 1% market share of the 30+ male beer buying consumer, and how much is based on making something brilliant and then getting to know customers personally?

It’s not about discarding all your data. It’s about using the right data in the right way, and not seeing it as the sole motivation. And with that, we go back to the likes of Henry Ford and Steve Jobs.

“If we used data on existing target audiences, all we’ll build are faster horses”, as Ford might say now…

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The ultimate data ownership failure?

It seems that medical organisations on both sides of the Atlantic have been having major digital and data issues for some time, but given the constant questions over who owns our data (on social networks, mobile apps, internet usage etc), this sadly summed up the current situation for me.

To summarise, a government body handed over parts of my medical records to people I’ve never met, outside the NHS and medical research community, but it is refusing to tell me what it handed over, or who it gave it to, and the minister is now incorrectly claiming that it never happened anyway.

From Ben Goldacre writing for The Guardian.