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Data Collection, Television, and Twitter

by Ethan Tussey

by Michael Lahey for IN MEDIA RES


The video, with its non-threatening tone and cutesy style (also see Google’s The Story of Send), explains how Twitter breaks down walls between various screens to create an integrated ad targeting experience where Television companies and Twitter work together to aggregate audiences for consumer goods like Trident Gum. For Trident, it can start a “brand story” on TV that can follow mobile audiences across different devices into their social media lives.

As Twitter casts itself more fully as a partner to the Television industry, we start to see the outlines of what Social TV could mean as Television producers now have access to a new pool of data: your tweets. Through Bluefin Lab's (a Social TV analytics company purchased by Twitter) sophistacted algorithms, Television companies have access to what we could call unacknowledged data. This data does not exist because you voluntarily sign up for a survey or because you are a Nielsen family but exists simply because you tweet. This allows data collection to be pervasive in our everyday lives. Increasingly all our actions are data to be collected, acknowledged or not.

But, of course, data collection isn't an entirely new phenomenon. What this video perhaps inadvertantly does is call attention to the history of data collection. In explaining how Twitter creates richer "brand stories," this video shows us stock images of the TV’s historical place in the home. In doing so, the video pinponts the historical importance of the realtionship between advertising and Television. Advertiser drivern market research has been part of advertising since the early 1900s. Acknowledging this allows us to ask questions that historicize the collection of data by various media indsutries. What can looking at the early history of advertising tells us about the role of data collection? What is the difference between advertisers seeking market data and the seemingly more sophistacted digitally-enabled approaches we see today?

If we are to take contemporary concerns about the invasive data collection strategies of companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, or Acxiom (in addition to revelations about the NSA and PRISM) seriously, then we need to make sure we connect them to a longer lineage in the media indsutries. To understand that some form of data collection has always been a core part of media business strategies as they try desparately to close the gap between ideal and actual audiences.

Data Collection, Television, and Twitter

On-line video ad

from Introducing TV ad targeting on Twitter (2013)
Creator: Twitter ads
Distributor: YouTube
Posted by Ethan Tussey