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Connecting the Dots

Connecting the Dots

July 2, 2008
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This month's Trend Watch will examine the increasing use of advanced analytics tools to develop a more robust understanding of the factors influencing adult business operations.

While a mainstay of the mainstream business world, such in-depth analysis within the adult industry has been typically limited to larger corporations that can devote many of the required resources, including staffing and infrastructure, to the task.

It has also been the province of some of the most tightly run "one man band" operations where data security and sharing access to competitive intelligence are less of an issue.

But it wasn't porn, per se, that got me thinking about this — it was a manhunt.

While delving deep into a Google Analytics report the other day, I heard a CNN story on a "secret war" being conducted in Iran, where U.S. special operations personnel are now spying on Iran's nuclear facilities; purportedly gaining intelligence prior to a preemptive strike against the country's WMD capabilities.

"Big deal," I thought to myself: there's nothing new about spying and every country has intelligence gathering assets that contribute their individual bits of information into the big picture that is only revealed by analysts who can connect the dots.

The thought reminded me of "The Death Star" — as it was known by those that were involved with it — a three-dimensional, global, graphical representation of the links between Saddam Hussein and his known associates; with the former Iraqi leader at the center of the sphere and every tie to him located somewhere on the chart. The closer the connection to Hussein, the closer the data point to the center, which was as you might have guessed, the bull's eye.

It was as serious a graph as you'll ever come across…

Data was fed into The Death Star by countless sources around the world: from basic street-level intelligence gathered in Baghdad and elsewhere within Iraq, to tips from foreign agencies; and it was then chewed upon by banks of computers and analysts united in a common goal — to kill or capture the world's most wanted man.

Without The Death Star, processing this much material in a meaningful way would have been a far more daunting task than it already was; but through the advanced visualization of complex datasets, Hussein's hunters were able to gain insights and conclusions they might not otherwise have come to in regards to the leader on the lam's whereabouts.

While I'm not suggesting that adult operators are engaged in such a literal life-or-death struggle, or that they have the resources to duplicate the combined efforts of the free world's most innovative thinkers; but that we all can benefit from drilling more deeply into the data that we have, or can acquire, and visualize it in more meaningful ways.

One easy example of this is the aforementioned Google Analytics, which provide a vast number of ways in which website performance data can be visualized and evaluated; such as the goal funnel visualizations which I find do a great job of "bringing home" the impact of design changes on a website's traffic flow.

Sure, knowing whether 90 percent or 70 percent of a page's traffic makes it through the next link is easy enough to see as a simple text representation; but graphically showing the sizes, percentages, paths and other aspects of traffic flow, can unite a viewer's "left and right brain" to deliver a more creative and comprehensive view of the data — and the more complicated that dataset, the more beneficial advanced visualization is.

Of course, it is the depth and breadth of the underlying information that makes the data useful, so gathering it in the first place is the foundation to any program of analysis and this collection of information comes in increasingly useful and accessible ways.

For example, many operators study the search engine keywords that lead surfers to their site, but do they as diligently study what visitors that actually use their site are seeking?

Personally, I'll be installing an internal search engine on one of my text link-based TGPs — not just because I want to make it easier for my site's visitors to get off on the free porn they desire, but because I want to analyze the search logs to see what they were after, in hopes that it will help me to fine-tune my approach by making more relevant offers.

While the resulting dataset from this effort will likely never be displayed as more than a long list of search terms, it will provide many more dots for me to connect and give more insight to other datasets that I am evaluating — developing a fuller picture of where the site is today — and where it is likely to go in the future.

Regardless of the size of your operation, the gathering of information and the advanced visualization of datasets is a vital component of continued growth and a necessary step in your efforts to "connect the dots" — and the development of the technology behind these processes is a trend worth watching.


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