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  • Dec 26, 2014
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My Take
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 December, 2012, 3:25am

The brain behind Lady Gaga's big data

BIO

Alex Lo is a senior writer at the South China Morning Post. He writes editorials and the daily “My Take” column on page 2. He also edits the weekly science and technology page in Sunday Morning Post.
 

Behind every successful man, there is supposed to be a woman. But behind every successful entertainer, you know for sure there is a genius manager. So it is with Lady Gaga. My children are "little monster" fans of the megastar, but I am absolutely in awe of her manager, Troy Carter, whose phenomenal intellect may well have made him one of our generation's great entrepreneurs.

After all, his greatest product, the singer, has been the subject of not one but two studies at Harvard Business School.

It's not just that Carter is a genius promoter; that's par for the course. It's also his ability to spot the commercial potential of an arcane if highly lucrative field of information technology: big data. This is the field that many technologists and economists such as Larry Summers, the former US Treasury secretary, believe will drive the next IT revolution.

How did he come upon this basic problem in today's IT: massive, heterogeneous and highly complex data that defy conventional methods of processing and interpretation?

As Carter explained to the Financial Times, if your biggest client has more than 31 million Twitter followers and over 51 million Facebook likes - more than any person on the planet - you would naturally think about big data: Who are these people and how do you make money and promote your star out of their social media accounts?

Twitter and Facebook are mega networks, which helps attract the tens of millions of fans. But 51 million likes does not mean 51 million CD or concert ticket sales. So with data insights gained from these networks and from ticket sales, Carter created Backplane, his own social media platform, a micro network, to attract one million hardcore fans to join Littlemonsters.com He and his colleagues also own the proprietary algorithm. They are betting that building a more intimate community of a million of the most loyal "little monsters" is worth a lot more in dollars and publicity than tens of millions of Twitter and Facebook contacts. They want to cut out these networks as the "middlemen".

You can see the beauty of his business logic even if you don't appreciate her music. Not bad for this self-educated, inner-city black kid and son of a single mother.

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