Dan joined PBS in 2008 as a digital video producer, until he found his true calling in the world of analytics. Today, Dan spearheads a vast array of innovative tracking projects that even Google cites as being on the leading edge.
Describe your role on the PBS Digital team.
I’m the data guy. I work for Amy Sample. I make sure we’re tracking the right things and tracking things right. I work closely with our Products team to figure out how to track our users on our digital experiences (data models/data governance). I then take the data we get back and use it to conduct analysis that helps inform strategic decisions we make here at PBS Digital. I also do a ton of reporting of that data. In my free time, I also do all of the user-testing for our national experiences (homepage, video portal, iPad/iPhone apps, etc.). And when I’m not doing all of that I also manage all of the Google Analytics accounts for all of our national producers: helping them get access, set up tracking, and make decisions with data. I absolutely love it.
What’s the hardest lesson you’ve learned working in public media?
Honestly, it has been time management. Which, I know, isn’t really specific to public media, but is specific to my experience in public media.
Before coming to PBS, I was a run-and-gun video journalist filing local TV news stories. I spent my days in a truck, constantly on deadline for the next story, which was always due in a couple of hours.
Then when I came to PBS, I found myself in a cubicle working on projects that had extremely far out deadlines and with little or no instruction on how they should be done. It was a real challenge for me to figure out how to be effective. I am the classic self-starter though, so I did what I always do: learn. I took lots of time-management classes, explored time-management tools and read everything I could get my hands on. Now, after almost 6 years, I can say I’ve pretty much nailed it. Through an obsessive amount of spreadsheets, time-tracking, and note-taking, I ruthlessly manage my to-do list with the best of them. I know exactly what I need to work on next, why, and how much time I have to complete it. It makes me a happier person at the end of the day.
Based on what you know now, if you could go back to your first day at PBS and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Make friends with Amy Sample right away. It took me a few years to grasp the value she provides here at PBS, but once I did I wanted in. I thank my luck stars every day that she took me under her wing and gave me a chance to work under her, learning how to do what she does. I try every day to be as good an analyst as she is.
What’s the one website you can’t live without?
A blog we keep for friends and family with pictures of my daughter. She’s amazing.
What’s one newsletter you think everyone should subscribe to?
Not sure. But it better have campaign tagging implemented.
What is your favorite mobile app?
As the proud owner of a basic feature phone (I’m too cheap for a data plan), I can honestly say I don’t have one. However, if I did, I’m pretty sure it would be the Evernote App. I use the desktop version every day, all day.
Describe your perfect weekend.
Sailing on the Potomac. Eating a chili half-smoke while I watch my Nationals trounce the Mets. Spending an entire afternoon picking/eating blue crab on my back deck with a pitcher of beer and my whole family busting my chops. I try to do each at least once a year.
What do you think are the upcoming trends in the digital world?
I think we’re going to see some really fantastic advancement in tracking user behavior and value in the coming years. Figuring out how to identify the current and future value of a particular user/customer is really challenging when there are so many digital platforms they use. The field of digital analytics is moving at lightning speed to figure it out, in order to make those kinds of insights easier to obtain. The trick is going to be tracking users in a way that doesn’t feel creepy. I think you can do that by being transparent, only gathering what you know for sure you need, and offering premium features in exchange for users' data.
If you could have a Google Hangout with any three people, who would you choose and why? Avanish Kaushik,Justin Cutroni, and Tim Wilson.
Describe the Internet in a word.