As technology continues to advance, our world is evolving into an ever-digital construct. The currency for this new digital world is data. Every behavior we have and every move we make online can be broken down and analyzed by big data corporations. It’s why the most valuable and powerful companies in the world all own our personal information. When you look at companies like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon, it is clear what they all have in common. They have possession of our most intimate personal information and can use this against us as consumers.
Now, this may all sound negative but data analytics has endless positive impacts as well. There is no better way to accumulate and analyze large sets of information, which can help lead the organization and coordination of things like medical breakthroughs and energy efficiency. As an example, the coordinated rollout of vaccines and hospital care during the COVID-19 pandemic was made possible due to medical and healthcare agencies using data analytics. As with most things, there are certainly pros and cons to using it.
The entertainment industry is an interesting case study for big data and its impact on consumer behavior. Companies like Netflix and Disney have certainly implemented these algorithms into their streaming platforms, which is why the ever-popular ‘Recommended For You’ list is always so accurate. These companies are able to trace our every movement as soon as we log into their ecosystem, and can begin to build a profile of us based on the shows and movies we choose to watch.
It is akin to how it was revealed in the film the ‘Social Dilemma’, that platforms like Facebook and Twitter are able to follow our every move. By building our online profiles, these companies can track our behaviors and change how we interact with the platform. These apps will send out reminders and notifications, and over time, have transformed the entire ecosystem into a game that produces large amounts of dopamine in our brains. It is effectively the same stimulation that we get from gambling or any other form of addictive behavior.
With the entertainment industry, they already have that control over people from the start. As consumers, we gravitate towards the entertainment that we enjoy, whether it is music, film, video games, or sports. Of course, there are other forms of entertainment that appeal to our animalistic side that revolve around things like gambling or sports. Companies in this industry have our most basic instincts already figured out.
So how does big data play into this? Analyzing our online behavior provides companies with a list of our preferred forms of entertainment. The internet, in a way, is one giant platform for entertainment. By figuring out what it is we like to experience, companies can target ads to the sites and products we search the most. Advertising revenue has become one of the single largest forms of revenue for online companies. In having access to our history, they have an unfair advantage of knowing what we will most likely be doing in the future. Our online behavior is but a commodity for these companies to manipulate.
Not only can they target us with specific ads, but they can utilize the broader data from their entire user base to shape future investments in their own platform. If a series on Netflix turns out to be more popular than expected, Netflix can use that user data to determine whether or not they want to produce another season for that show. These companies can use this information to decide on sequels to movies, related spin-offs, or even launching a program directly on the streaming platform rather than in theaters.
The monetary impact of these decisions is calculated in the billions of dollars. With ads, companies can focus on specific products now, rather than broadly producing them for every product or service. For subscription based services like Netflix, Disney+, or even a company like Spotify, the monetary impact revolves around a higher customer retention rate. By providing entertainment that their subscribers desire, they can quite literally keep users locked into their subscriptions for as long as they can.
But there are other forms of entertainment that are affected as well. The sports betting industry has been growing exponentially over the past few years, with most of the action taking place at online sportsbooks. Well, once something is online, you can bet these sportsbooks are analyzing user data and using that to their advantage. The one thing sportsbooks want to do is to continue to keep users coming back to the site to gamble more. While the saying ‘the house always wins is somewhat accurate, there is a side to sportsbooks that need to let their customers win as well. Otherwise, why would they keep going back?
In order to keep customers coming back for more, sportsbooks will often offer things like bonus offers to their users. Things like odds boosts, parlay bonuses, or free bets are very common ways sportsbooks reward their customers. As a bettor, you should take advantage of these rewards. Any of the best online casinos in Canada or the U.S. will offer these so if you get handed a free bet or a bonus, make it count!
Are sportsbooks wrong for using user data in this way? No more wrong than any other company in the entertainment industry that is doing the same. At the end of the day, most people are happy with their entertainment choices. While big data analytics can be seen as taking advantage of our online behavior, it also provides a more streamlined and easily accessible way to get the content we want. In the long run, it makes platforms like Netflix or YouTube a more user-friendly experience. Can it be unsettling? Sure. But perhaps we should just look at it as companies using our data to provide the most enjoyable experience on their platforms, and not think about the billions of dollars they are making because of it.