Are You Confusing 'Digital' and 'Data'? Apparently Some Are

Cook Suggests D.C. Crowd Doesn't Get It. Here's Hoping Marketers Do

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Here's one for the Marshall McLuhans of today to ponder: Apparently some people confuse the term "data" with "digital." People in politics especially don't get it, and neither do the very journalists who are supposed to be able to relay information about these concepts clearly to their readers.

At least, that's what Elizabeth Wilner, Kantar Media Ad Intelligence senior VP and Cook Political Report contributing editor, suggests in a Cook piece today, titled bluntly, "Data and Digital? Not the Same."

Confusing digital and data is more than just a way to torque up a data scientist, it's a giveaway that you don't fully grasp where the business of politics is heading. So here's a quick primer.

Digital is a medium. Digital basically refers to any action taken over the internet. Ads delivered to a desktop, tablet or phone are digital ads. Social media is digital. E-mail lists and open rates are digital.

Data - or analytics - is an approach to decision-making. Analytics can be applied to the use of any medium, not just digital, or to all campaign operations across the board.

Do that many people on Capitol Hill really have a problem with these concepts? One wonders whether they confuse their mailmen with the letters they receive, or the water flowing from their faucets with their bathtubs.

But marketers, for their part, have recently been called out for confusing business intelligence with data science. So here's hoping they've at least got a grip on this much.

Some may question the article's definitions. Surely some sticklers, possibly including this reporter, might argue that data and analytics are not interchangeable. Data is the raw material, while analytics are the methods employed to organize and understand, to manipulate that information.

Then again, reporters aren't always the sharpest tools in the shed. Or is it the shed in the tools? So confusing!