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Get on Track - Analytics Essentials

Digging up data stories can be one of the most time-consuming (and rewarding) aspects of being a Researcher. Discovering an insight that propels your business it into new heights of success and profitability is that moment in the sun we all seek to achieve.

Getting to that moment can require great effort and initiative. Working as a media researcher for nearly 25 years, there were moments when the call for insights far outweighed the time needed to secure the best stories. Somehow, I imagine media is not the only industry where this happens.

Getting on track with analytics essentials can save time and effort. If you're foraging for a data story, following are some tried and true tactics I've used to find that diamond in the data.

  • Basic Comparisons - This is the most simplistic strategy, but one that can be applied in countless ways. Even if the only data set you have is your own, there are comparisons that can be made. For the sake of example, I'm referring to basic interval comparisons, or comparing one product to another at one point in time. Consider exploring the following:

  • Product - Think about making comparisons from one brand to the next, or new iterations/launches of an existing brand. This can even be used in tandem with time comparisons, for a "best product launch" story, "best month ever for product x" and so forth. Keep a track of top performance periods by product, and you'll always have a quick rank to compare new products against as they roll out. For those of us in media, comparisons of premieres, finales, episode build from one to the next tell great stories can illustrate momentum.

  • Time - Can be made on a variety of different intervals depending on your data sets. Hourly, daily, weekly cuts of data - do you have a favorable change across any of these intervals? Perhaps an uptick that occurred during a product specific event (new launch, marketing campaign, etc). "Best ever" day, week, month, quarter on one of your key measures.

  • Competitive Comparisons - For many of your internal clients, competitive comparisons are a great means of expressing network or product value to others. Affectionately referred to as "chest beating", there's nothing wrong with a bit of boasting on how your performance tops others in your competitive set. Always be ready to back up your story with the original data points, and clearly convey the sources used relative to time and scope of data. Knowing media best, the first point of departure would be a check of the following types of comparisons:

  • Rank against competitor shows in the same daypart.

  • Rank against competitive shows within a genre. (Drama, reality, etc.).

  • Rank against other competitive shows season to date.

  • Rank against shows within your level of availability (for instance in the US, we would look at all Cable TV networks, or Broadcast networks).

  • Rank against all shows in all measurement history.

  • Trending - This ties in with the time comparisons mentioned earlier, and can work across any of your measures. As an example, a network might look at daypart trends:

  • Current month versus same month year ago

  • Quarter to date versus same quarter year ago

  • Season to date versus season to date year ago

  • Year to date versus same period year ago

These types of trending can be applied across key measures for your product/brand or for your business overall. If you want to get even more complex, look at trends on the performance of your product/brand compared to your key competitors. As mentioned in the basic comparisons section, keeping a track of performance trended over time against the measures and intervals most important to your business makes the gathering of these stories faster and easier.

  • Non-Conventional Sources - Sometimes a good story or insight can be hard to find in your regular sources. Try venturing outside the realm of syndicated reporting sources and internally collected data to see where your brand/product may appear in non-conventional sources like social media data, consumer rank and review websites. For a media business, there may be some great insights and ranks in a source like

  • Does your industry have consumer review sites? They're great sources for mining consumer feedback and affection for your brand. It may not always work out, but consumer review sites can offer a wealth of comments (when suitable) that may provide some additional value when stories in syndicated sources don't pan out. Social media sites like "" and "" may return some useful ranks.

There is no getting around the trial and error involved in digging up data gems, but keeping tracks of measure comparisons, trends and competitive keeps your finger on these points as they arise. A particularly helpful strategy I used was to create a boilerplate Word document that bullet points of all the key points by month and quarter. It was helpful to have the basic statements on comparison periods I could send out at the end of a quarter, season or year.

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