3 ways that big data reveals what you really like to watch, read and listen to



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Generating new entertainment data.
MinDof/shutterstock.com

Anjana Susarla, Michigan State University

Anyone who’s watched “Bridget Jones’s Diary” knows one of her New Year’s resolutions is “Not go out every night but stay in and read books and listen to classical music.”

The reality, however, is substantially different. What people actually do in their leisure time often doesn’t match with what they say they’ll do.

Economists have termed this phenomenon “hyperbolic discounting.” In a famous study titled “Paying Not to Go to the Gym,” a couple of economists found that, when people were offered the choice between a pay-per-visit contract and a monthly fee, they were more likely to choose the monthly fee and actually ended up paying more per visit. That’s because they overestimated their motivation to work out.

Hyperbolic discounting is just one challenge of operating in a creative industry. Tastes are highly subjective, and the elements of plot and narrative that make one movie a tremendous hit could easily make another a critical and commercial failure.

For decades, advertisers and marketers struggled to predict the consumption of leisure products such as movies and books. It’s equally challenging to decide the timing. Which weekend should a studio release a new movie? When a publisher releases a hard copy of a book, how do they decide when to release the e-book version?

Today, big data offers new visibility into how people experience entertainment. As a researcher who studies the impact of artificial intelligence and social media, there are three forces that stand out to me as especially powerful in predicting human behavior.

1. Economics of the long tail

The internet makes it possible to distribute entertainment products that are less popular than mainstream successes. Streaming shows can acquire a larger audience than what is economically feasible for distribution through prime-time television. This economic phenomenon is referred to as the long tail effect,

Since streaming media companies such as Netflix do not have to pay to distribute content in movie theaters, they can produce more shows that cater to niche audiences. Netflix used data from their individual customers’ viewing habits to decide to back “House of Cards,” which was rejected by television networks. Netflix data showed that there was a fan base for movies directed by Fincher and movies starring Spacey, and that a large number of customers had rented DVDs of the original BBC series.

2. Social influence in the era of artificial intelligence

With social media, people can share what they are watching with their friends, making otherwise independent entertainment experiences become more social.

By mining data from social sites like Twitter and Instagram, companies can track in real time what moviegoers think about a given movie, show or song. Movie studios can use a treasure trove of digital data to decide how to promote shows and release dates for movies. For instance, the volume of Google searches of a film’s trailer during the month before its premiere is a leading predictor of Oscar winners as well as box office revenue. Movie studios can combine historical data about movie release dates and box office performance with search trends to predict ideal release dates for new movies.

Mining social media data also helps companies to identify negative sentiment before it spirals into a crisis. A single tweet from an unhappy influential customer can go viral, shaping public opinion.

In a study I conducted with Yong Tan of the University of Washington and Cath Oh from Georgia State University, we showed how such social influence determines not only which YouTube videos become more popular, but also that videos shared by influential users become even more widely viewed.

One study shows that when studios pay attention to social media buzz before a movie’s release, the difference between the predicted revenue and the actual revenue, known as the forecast error, reduced by 31 percent.

3. Consumption analytics

Big data provides better visibility into what books and shows people actually spend their time enjoying.

Are you going to finish that?
diego matteo muzzini/shutterstock.com

The mathematician Jordan Ellenberg pioneered the use of the Hawking index, a measure of the average page number of the five most highlighted passages in a Kindle book as a proportion of that book’s total length. The Hawking index shows when people give up on a book. If a 250-page book’s average Kindle highlight appears on page 250, that would give it a Hawking index of 100 percent.

The theory gets its name from Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History in Time.” While this book still sells millions of copies a year, it is also seldom read, with a dismal Hawking index of 6.6 percent.

When a company such as Amazon decides which books to recommend to potential readers or which Prime shows to produce, they look at detailed digital traces of which plot points engaged audiences and which did not. This might help them to promote an upcoming release or to make better recommendations to individual users.

What’s more, new types of artificial intelligence can investigate what makes people engage with creative content. For instance, a company named Epagogix pioneered an approach using a neural network – an artificial intelligence tool that looks for patterns in very large amounts of data – on a set of screenplays rated by experts in the entertainment industry. The computer could then predict the financial success of a movie. According to some reports, such artificial intelligence can predict up to 75 percent of films’ actual opening grosses.

Given new big data insights like these, entertainment companies may soon know what exactly Bridget Jones would like to do with her leisure time better than Bridget herself does.The Conversation

Anjana Susarla, Associate Professor of Information Systems, Michigan State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Reading Big/Long Books


The link below is to an article that takes a look at how to read big/long books.

For more visit:>br>https://bookriot.com/2018/11/14/reading-big-books/

Booker Prize 2018: Anna Burns wins, but the big publishers are the real victors


Leigh WIlson, University of Westminster

In the literary world and among those for whom fiction is an interest beyond simply reading books, a great deal of attention will be given to the winner of 2018’s Man Booker Prize, Milkman, by Anna Burns. The chair of the judges, philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah, said Burns’ novel, about a young woman being sexually harassed by a menacing older man and set in Northern Ireland, “is a story of brutality, sexual encroachment and resistance threaded with mordant humour”.

Of course, each year, following the announcement of the longlist in July, the shortlist in September and finally the winner in October, a discussion takes place as to what each announcement might mean. As the Man Booker is the most prestigious, remunerative and talked about literary prize in the UK, this “what does it mean?” can be made to reach into just about every crevice of contemporary culture.

Anna Burns wins the 2018 Man Booker for Milkman.
Frank Augstein/PA

This year has been no exception – discussion of the longlist was dominated by the inclusion of a graphic novel, Nick Drnaso’s Sabrina, and discussion of the shortlist by the presence or absence of millennial writers. Discussion of Milkman will no doubt be dominated by the history of Northern Ireland, by #MeToo and by the fact that Burns is the first UK-born winner for six years.

In these accounts, the significance of the prize is restricted to thinking about those novels that reach the long or shortlist or the one that is declared the final winner. But a range of work from various wings of literary studies over the past few years can help us to answer the question of what winning means in other, perhaps more challenging, ways.

1. It’s a competition

The underlying claim of James F. English’s pioneering 2009 work in the sociology of literature, The Economy of Prestige: Prizes, Awards and the Circulation of Cultural Value, is that both the power of and the problem with prizes consists in the way they equate “the artist with the boxer or discus thrower”. Prizes are competitions.

But while the publicity might go to the winning writers, the real winners are the publishers, who need not just the increased sales and chances of film and TV adaptations that are likely to follow, but also the less tangible boost to their authority and prestige given by a prize. The real winners are also more likely to be not just any publishers, but those that have already been successful. As the novelist Joanna Walsh, among others, has noted, the Man Booker rules make submissions from small publishers very tricky because of the size of the print run required and the amount of money that involves. Because of this, a win can be a drain rather than a boost, and costs can outstrip sales if you don’t win.

2. A competition that maintains a monopoly

It’s not just that the competition is hard for small presses to enter – the big publishers have an near monopoly. In the 50 years that the prize has existed, literary publishing in English has been transformed from being made up of numerous independent companies, often family run, to being almost entirely dominated by the “big five”. These are Penguin Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster. And, further, each of these is itself owned by a multinational media conglomerate.

As the sociologist John Thompson noted in his book, Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century, the economies of scale made possible through mergers and acquisitions have created this almost complete monopoly. But through publishing via supposedly “separate” imprints, the big five have maintained an aura of smallness which is more conducive to the “creativity” on which their profits are ostensibly based.

Over the past 20 years, while 12 different publishers appear to have published the novels which were awarded the Prize, six of these wins were for imprints belonging to Penguin Random House. This monopoly is maintained through the prize’s rules for submissions – the number of novels a publisher can submit is directly tied to the number of longlisted novels they have had over the past few years. An imprint already marked as prestigious is more likely to win again.

3. It maintains a certain model of publishing

In his article about Amazon and its relation to contemporary literary fiction, US literary scholar Mark McGurl suggests the extent to which reading of material normally scorned by the literary critic can deliver new insights.

And close reading of the Man Booker’s rules of eligibility – while perhaps dry in comparison to reading the winner on the bus or with a reading group – is also revealing. It shows that it is not just a competition for a small number of large publishers, but that the prize is largely about the maintenance of a certain idea of publishing, too.

The rules of eligibility are almost entirely now about the publisher, rather than the novel or novelist – and key to them is the exclusion of anything with a whiff of self-publishing about it. In order to be eligible, a publisher has to prove that they are based in the UK or Ireland, but the only way of proving this is by having the accoutrements of the conventional publisher. Eligible submissions must come from publishers with ISBNs and head offices who use retail outlets for print books and who publish at least two literary novels a year. Rule 1g, through its strange, uncomfortable tautology, betrays something of just what is at stake in this: “Self-published novels are not eligible where the author is the publisher.”

What the various methods of literary studies can suggest, then, is that, contrary to nearly everything written elsewhere about the Man Booker Prize, it arguably doesn’t really matter which novel wins. Whichever wins, I’d suggest that the real winner is an intensely conventional notion of publishing. It’s an idea of publishing where sales and prestige are the most important consequences of winning prizes and where a few very large publishers dominate.

And, to continue that domination, the most novel uses of contemporary technology, which can open up spaces for the most innovative aesthetic forms become illegitimate. If you want to see examples of this kind of work, look to the recently published novel, Gaudy Bauble, by Isabel Waidner (published by Dostoyevsky Wannabe) – a book of experimental writing published in an innovative way. Under the current rules, such novels could never gain the coverage and attention offered by the Booker. And that’s a great pity.The Conversation

Leigh WIlson, Professor of English Literature, University of Westminster

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Article: DRM Lawsuit


The link below is to an interesting article concerning DRM, Amazon and big book publishers, and a lawsuit filed by independent bookstores. This is another very interesting case.

For more visit:
http://goodereader.com/blog/electronic-readers/amazon-big-six-sued-by-independent-bookstores-over-drm/

Article: Books to Read for Success Online


The link below is to an article that suggests books to read in order to make it big on the Internet.

For more visit:
http://www.lifehack.org/articles/work/top-30-books-you-need-to-read-if-you-want-to-make-it-big-online.html

Book Review: The Bourne Identity, by Robert Ludlum


I am a big fan of the Jason Bourne movies (the first three anyway). I don’t know what the fourth one (The Bourne Legacy) will be like without Matt Damon, but I’m still keen to see it. So it was having watched the movies that I decided to read the books. Wow, what a massive difference between the movie and the book. There are obvious similarities, but they are quite different from each other just the same.

The Bourne Identity‘The Bourne Identity’ is action all the way and is a great read. It is a book that is always on the go and suspense carries you foward through the book. You want to read on and see what happens to Jason Bourne next. Will
he be able to rise to the next challenge that is thrown in his way, especially given that he is trying to figure it all out as he goes along, as well as trying to figure out just who he himself is – while also seeking to protect a woman he has picked up along the way.

This is the spy book of spy books. It is an action read at the top of its game. Jason Bourne is the master spy relearning his craft as the memory of who he is and what he is returns to him with each thrilling piece of the jig saw that is ‘The Bourne Identity.’ Once you start, you want to keep on reading and as the pace quickens you find yourself seemingly reading with an increased tempo, as you’re right there with Jason Bourne every step of the way.

An excellent first read in the Jason Bourne series. I am very much looking forward to the next volume with great expectancy. I highly recommend this book.

Buy this book at Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/The-Bourne-Identity-A-Novel/dp/0553593544/

Article: Amazon’s Big Fall Books Preview 2012


What are going to be the next big offerings in books/ebooks? Well, Amazon have compiled a list of books/ebooks, which can be found on the Amazon site. 

For more visit:
Amazon.com: The Big Fall Books Preview 2012.

Article: Google Book Suit


The link below is to an article reporting on the suit being brought against Google for alleged copyright infringement. Being a big fan of the Google Books project, I would dearly love to see a solution that allows the project go ahead, yet be a very good thing for authors with copyrighted works.

For more, visit:
http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/google-wants-authors-to-drop-book-scan-suit_b51156

Google: No Longer Archiving the World’s Newspapers – Project Shut Down


Google is one of my favorite brands. Sure, it cops plenty of flak and probably some of it is deserved, but I have to say they are a company that has largely got it altogether. I’m a fan anyway – for what that’s worth.

I am a big fan of Google’s ongoing project to digitize the world’s books and literature. Sure, they need to conform to copyright laws like the rest of us while doing so and they have had some questionable episodes in this project to date. But what an amazing opportunity to read books that have been out of print for years and even centuries. It is a great service and project.

Google was also digitizing the world’s newspapers and this also could have been a major gift to the world, but sadly the project has been shut down. They have managed to place a huge amount of archival material onto the net and it is fully searchable – which is just brilliant. How amazing it would have been if all of the world’s newspapers had been digitized and made available on the web?

Have a look at what is available at:
http://news.google.com/archivesearch/about.html
http://news.google.com/archivesearch
http://news.google.com/newspapers

For more visit:
http://searchengineland.com/google-shuts-down-ambitious-newspaper-scanning-project-77970