On Saturday, the New York Times published an article titled “OkCupid’s Unblushing Analyst of Attraction” detailing the dating company’s commitment to using data for the purpose of understanding the social dynamics involved in courtship. Unlike Microsoft or Google’s research groups, OkCupid’s initiative goes beyond using R&D for new feature development. It turns out that publicizing their practice of using data to distill social insights is a well-crafted press strategy, both differentiating their offering from those of competitors and drawing tons of attention to the OkCupid brand.

Here’s how their strategy works: OkCupid launches a free dating service distinguished from other services by its playful questionnaires and quizzes. Without revealing any specific user data that would breach their privacy policy, the company aggregates data and provides their insights on its blog and to the press. In the NY Times article, they reference data while stating how their users show preferences for users of the same race. The results are provocative conclusions about racism, flirting, and even strategies for courtship– all of which make for a more interesting story than the one about a dating company releasing yet another product feature.

Over the years, OkCupid has been able to use this strategy to their great advantage. They release a study, then the study is instantly covered, syndicated, and analyzed, and this results in incremental SEO ranking improvements, which in turn leads to more OkCupid registrants and more studies. As a digital entrepreneur, you should be asking yourself whether or not you could make a strategy like this work for your startup.

Imagine you have a company offering an online fundraising solution for political campaigns and non-profit organizations. Across many political campaigns, your company will have collected insights into what types of mailings proved the most effective in soliciting donations. You could publish data about what kind of copy worked best, what time of day was most effective to send out mailings, and even which demographics were the most responsive to mailings.

For an online shop selling gifts for newborns, you might be able to use data to provide answers about the time period when people are most likely to give gifts after a birth, or your findings on consumer spending in relation to a baby’s gender. The possibilities are limitless.

Companies often issue press releases about milestones in company development without realizing that these milestones are only meaningful insomuch as the audience has a vested interest in the company. If you have a business with some operating history and a large set of internal data, you should explore how to leverage what information you’ve collected to create press-worthy human interest stories and help move your industry forward.

The Takeaway:

  • The next time you’re thinking about writing about your 1 millionth user or the launch of your Android application, ask yourself whether or not you’ve collected any data that can lead to a more compelling narrative.

– Andrew