Do Tech Companies Really Need All That User Data?

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Paul Garbett for HBR

The online economy — from search to email to social media — is built in large part on the fact that consumers are willing to give away their data in exchange for products that are free and easy to use. The assumption behind this trade-off is that without giving up all that data, those products either couldn’t be so good or would have to come at a cost.

But a new working paper, released this week by Lesley Chiou of Occidental College and Catherine Tucker of MIT, suggests that the trade-off may not always be necessary. By studying the effects of privacy regulations in the EU, they attempted to measure whether the anonymization and de-identification of search data hurts the quality of search results.

Most search engines capture user data, including IP addresses and other data that can identify a user across multiple visits. This data then allows

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How Netflix’s Content Strategy Is Reshaping Movie Culture

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Tim Evans for HBR

“Bueller? Bueller?” If you’ve seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, that one line probably conjures up memories of Oh yeah, chicka chicka, Ferraris, playing hooky, and dating in high school — all of which feature heavily in the hit coming-of-age film.

Like The Usual Suspects (“Who is Keyser Soze?”), Old School (“You’re my boy, Blue!”), Zoolander (“What is this? A center for ants?!”), and The Shawshank Redemption (“Get busy living, or get busy dying”) — which are some of our personal favorites — Ferris Bueller has burned its way into the American consciousness. But these movies have something else in common as well: None of them can be streamed on Netflix.

We’ve all had countless conversations bemoaning the scant availability of the movies we’d like to see. What should we watch on Netflix tonight? The Godfather? Nope. How about Part II?

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BuzzFeed’s CEO on the Secret to Virality – SPONSOR CONTENT FROM HBX

Jonah Peretti, CEO and founder of BuzzFeed, discusses how ideas spread and the need for creativity and judgment in a data-driven world.

While working at The Huffington Post, Jonah Peretti learned to appreciate the importance of human connections. He then founded BuzzFeed, a global media platform focused on producing highly shareable content. So what’s the secret to going viral? Is it a certain platform or type of content? Peretti’s perspective may surprise you.


Learn more about HBX online business education here.

How Consumer Brands Can Connect with Customers in a Changing Retail Landscape

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When news broke earlier this year about Amazon’s courtship of some of the world’s biggest consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands, it touched off a wave of speculation. Was the e-commerce giant engaged in a long game to alter the relationships between consumer goods makers and their brick-and-mortar retail partners? However it plays out, Amazon’s outreach exposed a digital divide in the consumer products world. On one side is the growing interest of brands in direct-to-consumer (D2C) models. On the other side are persistent worries about conflict — not just with traditional distribution channels but also with retailers carrying the brand. To bridge this gap, we’ve identified seven tactics that pioneering brands have used to arrive at an effective digital strategy: Understand how digital serves different consumer segments. Brands can deepen engagement by bringing people together for shared experiences. Kimberly-Clark, for example, specifically designed its Huggies rewards club to attract and educate new
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Book: The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia’s Digital Dictators and the New Online Revolutionaries

The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia’s Digital Dictators and the New Online Revolutionaries was one of two books I read this weekend (the other was Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness). It was outstanding. I made it the August book club book for my dad and my brother. And then, this morning, I woke up to the following headlines. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who is paying attention. There is now a long history of governments trying to control the Internet. One approach over government is censoring the Internet; another is weaponizing it. The Red Web covers Russia’s history around the Internet starting during the Cold War with a focus on the last twenty years. While Russia had a slow start, the Internet played a big
Continue reading "Book: The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia’s Digital Dictators and the New Online Revolutionaries"

Book: The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia’s Digital Dictators and the New Online Revolutionaries

The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia’s Digital Dictators and the New Online Revolutionaries was one of two books I read this weekend (the other was Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness). It was outstanding. I made it the August book club book for my dad and my brother. And then, this morning, I woke up to the following headlines. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who is paying attention. There is now a long history of governments trying to control the Internet. One approach over government is censoring the Internet; another is weaponizing it. The Red Web covers Russia’s history around the Internet starting during the Cold War with a focus on the last twenty years. While Russia had a slow start, the Internet played a big
Continue reading "Book: The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia’s Digital Dictators and the New Online Revolutionaries"