Commentary

Data: The Next Natural Resource?

Chris McCann, president, 1-800-Flowers.com, called data the world's next natural resource during his keynote presentation at OMMA DDM this morning. 

"If you look at it, you can say that data is the world's next natural resource. Some people...will have more than others, some places or business are better at mining that resource, and the winners will be those who utilize this resource to create competitive advantage. Simple as that," he told the audience.

That's an interesting analogy. Maybe as a flowers guy he's used to thinking of things from an agricultural standpoint.

But in all seriousness, it's a solid connection. Natural resources are typically thought of as scarce, and even though data is "big" - sometimes even too big - it is still cherished. Plus, when you boil it down, some of the most important data is time sensitive, which limits its use despite an ever-growing heap of the stuff. 

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More and more, today's advertisers are being asked to perform in real-time. Perhaps that pressure causes advertisers to fumble data, but isn't that what the algorithms are for? And yet, the algorithms don't always get it right, which brings up McCann's point of some people being better at mining data than others. Just like natural resources, those who have have it figured out won't be too keen to let others tap into their proverbial well.

So what happens to data that isn't used in time?

Its usefulness evaporates.

2 comments about "Data: The Next Natural Resource?".
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  1. Stephen C. Baldwin from Steve Baldwin Associates, May 23, 2013 at 2:27 p.m.

    I am uncomfortable with the odd notion that data is a "natural resource," e.g. something that is here to be exploited for commercial gain. Data is produced by behavior, which is produced by humans, and the data-gathering process benefits aggregators and other 3rd parties, not the humans who produced it. There is nothing "natural" about this process at all, nor is it necessarily an equitable transaction.

  2. Noah Wieder from SearchBug, Inc., May 23, 2013 at 6:25 p.m.

    Tyler, I'm not so sure I consider data as a natural resource neither. As a heavy wikipedia user: Natural resources occur naturally within environments that exist relatively undisturbed by mankind, in a natural form. I'm not sure how this correlates to data and data mining.

    There is just so much data "out there" and depending on which data set you're talking about, some of it is far from scarce.

    I believe most of it is untapped and wild and the companies or individuals that are able to tame, manipulate, and make sense of certain data sets are the ones that will create a competitive advantage.

    We [searchbug] do see a trend from companies that are using our data to make their data more meaningful.

    With government incentives to make EHR more meaningful and laws surrounding phone number data more and more companies are turning to data providers for help. There is a trend.

    Ensuring customer data is accurate can make a huge difference for the marketing department, yet only a small percentage of companies have a process for making customer data as meaningful and accurate as possible.

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