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EXDC: Your data may suck, but the media is putting external data to work

5 months ago by Jon Marino in Consumer, Retail

WeWork's valuation recently rose to nearly $50 billion, before it was sold for less than $10 billion. 

Someone's data really sucked. 

At EXDC, Thinknum's first annual data conference in midtown Manhattan earlier this week, Thinknum Media editor in chief Joshua Fruhlinger gathered a number of reporters from top outlets to discuss how alternative data is increasingly applied in an advanced media cycle. 

For years, social media data has been critical to reporters breaking news - from the financial services space to something as germane as social engagement stemming from a Twitter fried chicken sandwich debate. But increasingly, it's apparent that companies have to do more to not just harness market data for analysts and investors - but alternative data, to keep up with their business' performance and reputation in real-time. Often, one part of a company is using data that another is unaware of - and a lack of communication around what is being posted or shared creates pitfalls within poorly run organizations. 

Social media also helps circulate data, and create discussions that support better reporting, notes Shoshana Wodinsky, social networks and platforms reporter with Adweek.

"It cannot be stressed enough how important that it is to go out and get your own data," she said.

But, now, the proliferation of alternative data lets the media better cover subjects more in-depth.

Business Insider's Ben Gilbert, who has tracked Gamestop's ($NASDAQ:GME) public market decline, notes that alternative data has been valuable in better framing the company's shrinking over time.

"You can track the sales going down," he said on Tuesday's panel. "They're treading water, until the inevitability that they go away."

The web created a real-time information marketplace in which increasingly digital brands (even those that make physical goods) are increasingly dependent on ratings to back up their marketing. Whether it's app ratings (which track consumer sentiment for digital services for companies like WeWork) or product ratings (which reinforce Yeti's branding power), the market is less dependent on channel checks and earnings announcements and increasingly able to glean real-time insights. And, job postings remain a consistent indicator for a market increasingly eager for more information.

"Journalists rely on sourcing and people who are familiar with the collection process - what is collected, what is not," said Ross Fadely, chief of data science with the Wall Street Journal.

It's particularly critical when reporting to the Wall Street community that alternative data's context is fully and adequately framed - market watchers that are experienced with nuanced data and (often, at least) are capable of spotting data that is either inaccurate or outright fake.

"You're dealing with an audience that is very aware you can say whatever you want with data," said Thornton McEnery, executive editor of

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Jon Marino

Jon Marino is Thinknum's finance editor, covering the impacts of alternative data on public companies and investors. Prior to joining Thinknum, Jon worked in the ...

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