The Effects of Data Analytics on Politics, Media and Business

by Katie Cook 4 min read

Collecting and analysing data has recently become commonplace in several spaces.  Three of those areas are politics, media and business.  This article considers how large scale data analysis is changing the way things are done in these three fields.


political-conference_23-2147511783.jpgThe Economist recently released a report on how social media and data is affecting politics and voting behavior - "The Signal and the Noise".  The investigation and report was led by Ludwig Siegele, the publication’s Technology Editor.  His report outlines various ways social media and data analytics is changing the landscape for politics.  Social media is giving politicians louder voices than they otherwise would have and data analytics is giving politicians access to certain information they otherwise would not have had.  This includes information such as which voters are planning not to vote and who are undecided in which way they will do so. Siegele also flags some ethical issues that have arisen by the use of these technologies in politics.

These include the fact that data mining is very expensive so this means those with money are the ones that can do a lot more with information gathered from this process.  Companies, such as Google, may become very powerful as they hold this information.  Also, targeting campaigns using data may not be always be a good thing.  Although they could be perceived as being “democratic”, as politicians cater to the perceived needs and wants of the majority according to data, political campaigns could become mere marketing with no real substance or ideals supporting them.

Mr Siegele suggests that to ensure at least a little control over misuse of data the public should be made aware of how prospective candidates and political parties are targeting them e.g.  details of the types of data that is being mined and the messages that are being sent out to individual votes should be published.

News and Media

We also know that technology has had an effect in another public sphere in recent times - that of the news and media.  This phenomenon has been popularized in such dramas as Aaron Sorkin’s “The Newsroom” and the Hollywood Comedy, “The Ugly Truth”. Data and new media such as social media has changed the way news is reported so networks don’t always report “hard” news and don’t necessarily focus on the “important issues”.  Rather they report the news based on what the data shows their audience will like. This has led to the rise of the term “infotainment”. News is no longer about informing and provoking its receivers to think.  Rather it’s about entertainment.  

Similarly to politics this raises some ethical issues.  Should news reporting simply be controlled by metrics and data?  Or, should measures be put in place to ensure the public can be well-informed and provided with comprehensive and balanced information upon which they can make life, political and business decisions?


So that brings us to another interesting and important question.  How are social media and data analytics affecting businesses now and in the future and what ethical issues, if any, are relevant in this space?

Two of the most common ways social media is being used is in relation by online reviews and the transformation of marketing to a more digital inbound approach. Customers can broadcast to millions about their experience with a specific product or service and can search the web to find those that meet their needs.  

Data analytics has enabled companies to specifically target individuals whose profiles match that of their customer personas.  It has also allowed them to scan the internet to identify positive and negative reviews and structure this information so it is meaningful and can be used to make smart business decisions.  

Data analytics can also be used to improve operational efficiencies. In healthcare, analytics could assist in suggesting possible diagnoses and in this way improve care.  Similarly analytics in supply chain management may be able to re-route travel paths where something unforeseen happens that disrupts supply chain flow.  

In business, and particularly deal making, analytics can give you insight into how you arrived at certain decisions and where you may have gotten stuck by recording key metrics in the contracting process.  Contract management software (CLM), among other data metrics, should show you how much “empty time” there is a negotiation - the amount of time that each party is waiting on the other party to finish their part of the process.  It should also show you which contract managers or negotiators in your company are fastest at closing details and how many times particular terms and conditions were redrafted.  Eventually, this software should provide suggestions for the most efficient contracts to use and predict what terms and conditions, such as price, you will agree upon - or rather, Predictive AgreementTM.

As with politics and the media, the use of social media and data analytics has created ethical issues for the business sphere.  This technology has seemingly provided more power to the consumer.  Companies have a greater knowledge about the customer’s needs and wants and so can better create their products to suit these.  However, some reviews about companies could create misconceptions about the value of a product or service.  What’s more, there are ethical issues relating to privacy in relation to access to personal data about prospective customers.  Also, data analysis costs money and only larger corporations may be able to afford it.  Therefore, larger companies may have the power to use this information to stifle competition and innovation by smaller companies with less resources.

What are your thoughts?  How are social media and data analytics affecting politics, media and business?  Do you view these effects as good or bad?  What measures, if any, do you think should be put in place to moderate any adverse effects?

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