ddprofile1Deepika Bajaj is VP, Publisher Relations at RedLink, a silicon valley based start-up that provides Business Intelligence tools to publishers. Deepika has over a decade of experience across industries (publishing, media, telecom) and across functions including product marketing, publisher development and business strategy. 

Learned societies and other smaller publishers find themselves at a crossroads, struggling to understand how to adapt to the changing needs of academia in the face of flat or falling revenue opportunities. What can publishers do to understand how to adapt to the new digital realities and continue to stay relevant in the 21st Century? The answer is Business Intelligence (BI).

Lyons Maid Ice Cream Van, Cambridge 1960s – CC-BY-SA Original here

Why is BI so vital, not just to publishers but to all businesses? Take an example that we’re all familiar with, the humble ice cream truck. What type of insight would the hopeful ice cream van driver need to have when choosing a neighbourhood in which to sell? Primarily, he would need to know if there was indeed a customer base – it would be difficult to sell ice cream in a neighborhood where there were no children.

Do these kids like popsicles more than ice cream sandwiches? With the right answer, the vendor will be able to reduce the cost of inventory upkeep and increase customer satisfaction at the same time. With limited variables, all his decisions would be based on a relational database. The problem is: It is all in his head.

This problem was solved with the advent of the open source distributed database framework Apache Hadoop, which made Big Data storage a walk in the park. Soon it became obvious that data collation wasn’t a hurdle. Processing it was the bigger problem. What do you do when there is such an overwhelming amount of unprocessed data? It becomes imperative to have tools to give a structure to the data and present it in a format which is least time consuming and most efficient.

This is where technological tools for Analytics and BI come into play. Tools are indispensable in the digital space due to the sheer number of variables. To understand why, let’s look at another familiar, more modern example, the blogger. Let’s imagine that despite churning out an article a day, a web journalist discovers to her horror that the majority of visitors spend almost no time on the pages of her blog – she has a very high bounce rate. Interfaces like Google Analytics are a huge opportunity here. Not only can she identify which of her posts are the most read, but she can generate more content along similar lines. Voila! In no time, her revenue from advertisements starts pouring in.

There is much to lose in failing to embrace the new generation of business analytics. The old way to do business is to stick to a model, based on the merits that the business perceives, and wait for the customer to develop a liking for it (how many times have you heard a struggling company blame their customers for not seeing their value). Businesses need to adapt in real time. This becomes critical because the span of engagement is miniscule in the digital world.

Let’s go back to the smaller publishers and  learned societies. Many are facing falling membership and publishing revenue. Many fear that the role of such publishers is in jeopardy and are frustrated by the fact that the market and academia doesn’t seem to want to support them the way that they used to. Without a pulse on the market, it is impossible to know where they are faltering. BI solutions would help such a publisher identify latent trends while engaging with its customers like never before. Properly implemented BI solutions offer a lifeline to publishers who are struggling to understand how to adapt to new market conditions. With tools like OLAP, assumption-based strategies can now be completely avoided. With analytics, revenue from existing models can be maximized while new models are rigorously tested. Only with this strategy can smaller publishers continue to remain relevant and find their place in the market.

The future of BI and analytics solutions is likely to only get brighter. Processed information is going to be the most sought after currency. With technology adapting and growing at an unprecedented pace, soon it will be possible to analyze markets before stepping foot in them.

Technology will make it possible to evaluate the promise of a yet-to-be-launched product based on concrete and credible data about the market. We can soon bid farewell to the good-old, yet often unreliable, gut instinct.