Anthony J. Pennings, PhD


Metrics, Analytics, and Visualization

Posted on | May 21, 2019 | No Comments

Understanding metrics is a significant component in evaluating global media, social media, and culture industries. Measurements of magazine and newspaper circulation, book readership, as well as television and radio audiences, have each had a distinguished history in the media field. The Nielsen ratings, for example, have been a crucial part of the television industry and its ability to attract advertisers. The introduction of digital technologies has made them even more important, and Nielsen has expanded its monitoring activities beyond TV to PCs, mobile devices, and perhaps the automobile dashboard if the “driverless car” takes off.[1]

Search engines, social media platforms, and a myriad of new media applications on the web and mobile devices have increased the production of useful data, and new systems of analysis have augmented their utility. Analytics is directly involved in monitoring ongoing content delivery, registering user choices, and communicating with fans and other users. They also connect incoming flows of information to key organizational concerns concerning financial sustainability, legal risks, and brand management involved in digital media activities. This type of information is increasingly important for management of private and public organizations.

Organizations are beginning to acknowledge the importance of social media metrics across the range of corporate and non-profit objectives, especially those that involve legal, human resources, as well as advertising and marketing activities. These new metrics can be roughly categorized into three areas. At a basic level, they are granular metrics that quantify activities like the number of retweets, check-ins, as well as likes and subscribers. Strategically, metrics can also be useful for designing new products and services, facilitating support and promoting advocacy for an organization, fostering dialogues about products and services, and monitoring marketing/social media campaigns. Lastly, metrics are of particular concern to upper management as they can be useful to provide information on the sustainability of an organization.

Those in the “C-suites” (CIOs, CFOs, COOs, and CEOs) can use the information on an organization’s financial status, technical performance, and legal risks to assist management decision-making. Metrics present connections from social media investments to key concerns such product development, service innovation, policy changes, market share, and stock market value. Recognizing the increasing utility of metrics, management has increasingly appreciated digital dashboards as a way to collect and display data in a visually comprehensive way.

The increased attention on metrics has suggested an era of “big data” analytics has emerged in the digital media sphere. The collection of unstructured information from around the web (as opposed to pre-defined, structured data from traditional databases) presents unprecedented opportunities to conceptualize and capture empirical information from networked environments for various parts of an organization. Techniques such as pattern and phrase matching use new types of algorithms to capture and organize information from throughout the Internet, including the rapidly growing “Internet of Things” (IoT). The result is a transformation in the way commerce, politics and news are organized and managed.

Combined with artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NPL) for instance, cognitive systems like IBM’s Watson are disrupting industries like healthcare and finance. Watson made a spectacular debut by beating two human contestants on the TV game show Jeopardy, a challenging combination of cultural, historical and scientific questions. While Watson is struggling to catch on, AI is emerging in autonomous vehicles, voice recognition, game systems and educational technology. Apple’s Siri and Samsung’s Bixby are central to modern uses of smart phones. Amazon’s Alexa is becoming popular on kitchen counters around the US, shared by all members of the family. AI is likely to be a major influence on a wide range of cultural and experience industries.

Project managers and media producers can use the metrics to see connections between content/cultural products, audience participation, customer satisfaction, and market share. C-suites executives utilize the information on financial status, technical performance, and legal risks. Besides assisting management decision-making, analytics can provide useful performance information, and improve the development of new content products, cultural expressions, and experience-based services while targeting them to individual customers. While new developments like AI-assisted genre innovation and other machine incursions into the creative process are a justifiable means for concern, cognitive-logistical support for cultural event planners, film surveyors, and other creative content producers could be a welcome provision in the cultural/media industries.

This move to “big data” science requires the ability to conceptualize and enact strategies for data collection, analysis, and visualization. Employees and management should develop an appreciation for research and statistical thinking, as well as visual literacies and competencies for representing information and designing graphics that display data results in interesting and aesthetically appealing formats. The ability to identify and capture data from spreadsheets, the web and other online sources is important, as well as the ability to formulate pertinent questions and hypotheses that shape data research and models that can help explain or predict human or system behaviors.

Not everyone will be comfortable with these new types of data collection and intelligence-producing systems, but like them or not, AI and big data are encroaching rapidly on modern life.


[1] This is from a section in Pennings, A. (2017, October). Emerging Areas of Creative Expertise in the Global Digital Economy. [Electronic version] GDM Quarterly 1 (2), 1-11.



AnthonybwAnthony J. Pennings, Ph.D. is Professor and Associate Chair of the Department of Technology and Society, State University of New York, Korea. From 2002-2012 was on the faculty of New York University. Previously, he taught at Hannam University in South Korea, Marist College in New York, Victoria University in New Zealand. He keeps his American home in Austin, Texas and has taught there in the Digital Media MBA program atSt. Edwards University He joyfully spent 9 years at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.


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