In today's New York Times Magazine is the article "Data You Can Believe In" by Jim Rutenberg. It conveys two fascinating stories. First, details of how the Obama campaign used data in unprecedented ways to win the 2012 election. See below for a quick summary.
Second, background on the major data analysis players and what they have gone on to do after the election. You'll apprecate their adventures if you're hunting for corporate jobs in data analytics, or trying to understand how to balance your desire to change the world with your desire to change your paycheck.
How data won the election
Last fall, when we gave Daniel Wagner and the staff of the Obama Cave our Measurement Maven of the Month award, we provided a rough overview of how they used the data. Today's NYTimes article gives a much clearer picture of their strategy and just which data streams were used and how.
First they used Facebook data on the friends of existing Obama supporters to identify 15 million persuadable swing voters. Then they built an "optimizer" to match cable TV set-top box viewing data with the swing voters to maximize the efficiency of their TV ad buys:
"The results were striking. The campaign determined that two of the top shows to buy were 1 a.m. repeats of “The Insider” and afternoon episodes of “Judge Joe Brown” — shows that were far cheaper than the evening news or anything being shown on the networks in prime time.
"...the optimizer helped... do what most strategists deemed impossible in a campaign between two well-financed opponents — talk to undecided voters through television advertisements on shows on which the opposition was not running a countermessage.
"In the end... Obama paid roughly 35 percent less per broadcast commercial than Romney did... Obama and his supporting super PAC got nearly 40,000 more spots on the air than Romney and his super PACs did despite spending roughly $90 million less."
The Measurement Standard is a publication of News Group International.