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Real-time Data for the ADD Internet Addict is Glimpse of the Future

Pop culture is a constant, complex data stream unfolding in real time all around us.  And you can watch it flow by in text and pictures at Digg Labs using its Stacks, Swarm, BigSpy, Arc, and Pics tools.

Sure, Digg has its limitations.  It can be gamed.  The population using it religiously is hardly representative of the broader population.  The data are utterly overwhelming presented in this format.  Digg Labs has evolved, but it is still little more than ticker-like tools to enable semi-random internet surfing to find things ranging from this to this.

But Digg Labs’ tools and others point to the emerging ability of marketers to observe the infection of viral information as it spreads, the movement of internet memes, emerging consumer trends and someday, theoretically, an eerie, universal psyche of sorts.

Imagine when our computers, TVs and mobile devices inevitably merge into a single, cross-compatible platform where virtually any type of content is available on demand anywhere.  Or maybe just look in your pocket.  IBM predicts new technologies will merge brand marketing and direct marketing, meaning the days when you use touchscreen technology to instantly order the shoes your hero is wearing are right around the corner.  This looked like science fiction not long ago; now it looks sort of cheesy.

Someone – either the carriers or content providers – will track and monetize more and more information about our media consumption, lifestyles, purchasing behaviors, hopes, dreams, fears, fetishes, relationships… and Digg Labs is the Commodore 64 of what’s ahead for marketing researchers.

Swarm is a sneak peek of what’s possible:

It only shows a rudimentary clustering around news stories or other content as people Digg them.  It’s largely “Data Porn 2.0.”  But swarms are a metaphor for consumer behavior, and Swarm’s name hints at the true potential of such tools.  We’re witnessing the early stages of real-time monitoring of crowd behavior, online and offline social relationships, and the observable exchange of brands as social currency or utilities.

Throw opt-in GPS tracking and RFID tags into the mix, and its easy to envision a dashboard of real-time data showing where brands are performing geographically, around which types of content, shared in which ways and by whom.  Perpetual beta testing of messaging, content concepts, product designs or other brand elements will be the norm.  And the segmentation of content and message will be more granular than ever imagined, enabling brands to be truly malleable across lifestyles and markets.

This reality seems more probable than I care to admit.  But the new business models it will open up are fascinating.



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