Views From A Trailblazer: Q&A With Simulmedia CTO Alison Lowery
The four videos of the interview can be viewed here. Below is an excerpt:
CW: Simulmedia works with a range of interesting data sets, including set-top-box data. Can you talk about other types of data you handle?
AL: We are also getting device data – and I use that term to mean data harvested directly off the television set itself. This data has some differences from our other data sets and is very different from set top box data. It is more about the actual content that is being displayed. So we are taking that data as well as our set-top-box data to better understand what the viewer is watching. Since this device data doesn’t necessarily have the same characteristics as set-top-box data, there are additional transformations and inferences that we need to make. But we are bringing all of that into our universal data model, which we can then use to provide the insights and campaign plans that are part of our business model.
CW: At one point you worked for AOL and have experience with online data. How does online compare to set-top-box and the new device data?
AL: The data that we gathered online to benefit online advertising was very similar, at least in concept, to our other data sets. We wanted to know what our visitors’ behaviors were, and how we could use that information to infer their interest or concerns that would make advertising more relevant to them.
We are applying these same techniques to the television data. The primary difference is that the television data is not as specific to the viewer as the online data is specific to the visitor. With online data you have mechanisms like a cookie, for example, that enables you to track or keep important information about that specific client on the PC or laptop. You can see that a given visitor is visiting a specific site at a specific time, and you know that it is tied to that visitor. With television, you know that the television is on, but you really don’t know who is sitting in front of it. You really don’t know if there is one person or 15 or 20 people. So you have to use a lot more statistical inferences to get to who is actually engaged in that behavior as a viewer.
CW: You are one of the few female CTOs in the industry. Can you talk about being a woman in a largely male field?
AL: Yes. You know, I am always surprised by that, because when I was going for my advanced degree in computer science there were a lot of women in my class. We weren’t the majority by any stretch, but there were quite a few of us.
But since that time, I do notice that I am often in the room filled with men, both as engineers working on a project or in a management team. So when I recruit, I state my bias right upfront for women engineers. But they are very hard to find.
I can’t explain it. I am looking at different organizations that are mentoring women to get into the sciences. And I am involved in forming partnerships and mentorships with other women CTOs – there are a few of us here in New York City who are just starting out in their own companies.