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.

Article: Author Writing Novel in Real Time


I don’t suppose it is to amazing to note an author writing a novel in real time – all authors do this I would hazard to say. However, in the article linked to below, there is a link to a Google doc in which you can ‘watch’ an author writing away at a novel.

For more visit:
http://techcrunch.com/2012/09/18/watch-this-author-use-a-google-document-to-write-and-edit-a-book-in-real-time/

From My Armchair: 28 July 2012


I am doing a little experimenting here, just trying to get a good format together for a new post I’ll be doing here on a regular basis (I hope). I thought I might start to do a regular reading progress type post, or something like that. It will probably be a weekly summary of what I’m reading and other book news ‘From My Armchair.’ There you go, that can be the title of the regular post. That is, book news from my own reading experience and exposure to books on a personal level, including updates from my personal library – that sort of thing.

Now to work out just what I’ll include in the post – it could be something like a newsletter I suppose. So straight up, there can be this sort of preamble blurb thing going on. Just a bit of a ramble about book stuff from a personal perspective. Then I can put down a few sub-headings with some structured content, relevant information and comments. Sounds like a plan I think. It will probably take a couple of weeks to come together and look presentable, at least to me anyhow. So it will be a work in progress for a while.

Something else I’m going to do is clear my reading list at Goodreads and have a new start there also. That way I can tie everything together and have a continuous and consistent story as far as my experience with books is concerned. That way, when I do this weekly post, ‘From My Armchair,’ I’ll be able to pass on a summary of my reading activity as recorded at Goodreads.

 

Social Networks, Web Applications & Other Tools

Under this head I think I can provide a summary of what I’m involved in as far as social networks and web applications are concerned. I use quite a number of social networks, web applications and tools in the area of books and reading, with a variety of applications and functions. All useful in their own way I believe. I think they provide a good means to not only glean useful information, but to also maximise the benefits of my books and reading for a whole range of activities that I am involved in. I like to see my books not only as entertainment and an escape from the world for a while, but also as tools for accomplishing many things within the world.

I currently use Goodreads as my social network for books/ebooks. I once also used Shelfari, being torn between the two, but now that Shelfari has closed the better of the two networks has continued as far as I am concerned. I am trying to use Goodreads as my online catalogue for books, so slowly I am adding them all to it. I also use a database on my own PC, which I am trying to sync with Goodreads, though I enter the information to both manually. It will take some time to get all of that done as I do have a large number of books.

 

Currently Reading:

I like to read and prefer reading to television viewing. I don’t like to waste my time and prefer to use my time in worthwhile pursuits. I do watch a small amount of television, but that is usually to further my intellectual development, so I watch documentaries, news programs and the like. I do watch the occasional program to wind down from time to time, but prefer to watch a DVD for that purpose as most of the stuff on the Idiot Box is just a lot of rubbish lol.

I usually have several books on the go at one time, but have found in recent years that I tend to not finish a lot of books also. That hasn’t always been the case, but it seems increasingly so now. I’ll be cutting down on the number of books I’m reading at any one time in the future, to try and ensure I finish what I start more often than not.

Currently, I am reading two books – well one actually, but about to start another. These are listed below:

– The Bourne Identity, by Robert Ludlum
– Killing Calvinism: How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Theology from the Inside, by Greg Dutcher

 

Finished Reading:

The Hunt for Red October, by Tom ClancyI did have a few books underway and these were all listed at Goodreads, but I cleared these a little while ago and gave myself a fresh start. One book I completed recently was ‘The Hunt for Red October, by Tom Clancy. I read the Jack Ryan series of books by Clancy some time ago and recently decided I’d read them again. I also watched the film again to see how close to each other they were – there was quite a difference between the book and the film. I have a post about this which I’ll link to below.

For more visit:
https://atthebookshelf.wordpress.com/2012/07/29/1614/

 

Purchased & Added to Library:

I have recently acquired a large number of ebooks, many for free from Amazon, including the following books:

– Killing Calvinism: How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Theology from the Inside, by Greg Dutcher
– The Discipline of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness, by Jerry Bridges
– Beyond Belief – The Real Life of Daniel Defoe, by John Martin

 

John Adams, by David McCullough


I have just finished watching the mini series ‘John Adams,’ starring Paul Giamatti as John Adams and Laura Linney as Abigail Adams. I found the mini series to be difficult to watch, as it was hardly brilliant drama despite the rhetoric on the DVD case. Not being American was perhaps a reason for my lack of enthusiasm for the mini series. I found it to be a disappointment as a viewing spectacle. But how true to the man and to history was the mini series? This is a question that now has my attention – for the portrayal of John Adams in the production was hardly that of a man to be admired.

Adams comes across as a self-centred, vain glorious man, with poor people skills and a terrible father and husband. He appears to seek his own advancement to the expense of those about him and also to be full of envy and petty jealousy. He also appears to be a somewhat poor diplomat and politician overall – even though he held the greatest office in the United States, as second president following that of George Washington.

So now I come to the book on which this mini series was based, ‘John Adams,’ by David McCullough. I am now going to read this book and see just how true to the book and actual events the mini series achieved. I find it difficult to believe that Adams could have been the way he was protrayed in the film – now I will seek out the truth for myself.

Changing the World: November 21 – Turning Off the Box


Now this is a great suggestion – turn off the box!!!

Yes, this one is all about turning the TV off and doing something else, something better with the time you claw back from the idiot box. That might sound strange to people today – but I enjoy the fact that I don’t watch much television anymore. So much time is wasted in front of the television and there is plenty of other things to do.

To quote a television ad which I believe advertises the virtue of getting out in the world and fishing, etc, ‘that ain’t living.’

Reclaiming time from the box is a great idea.

See also:

www.tvturnoff.org

 

A response to reading ‘365 Ways to Change the World,’ by Michael Norton