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Wharton WCAI says it’s the “year of mobile”

When we last checked in with the Wharton Interactive Media Initiative, the group was taking heaps of data from ESPN to predict viewing habits across the cable channel’s multiple platforms. Since then, the group has changed its name to the Wharton Customer Analytics Initiatve and is out of what Co-Director Eric Bradlow calls “startup mode.” After […]

When we last checked in with the Wharton Interactive Media Initiative, the group was taking heaps of data from ESPN to predict viewing habits across the cable channel’s multiple platforms.
Since then, the group has changed its name to the Wharton Customer Analytics Initiatve and is out of what Co-Director Eric Bradlow calls “startup mode.”
After the name change, all kinds of companies have been approaching WCAI asking for its brainpower to help make sense of the piles of consumer data we all generate every day.
After the jump, we ask Bradlow what the name change means, how he’s helping you buy better airline tickets and what he thinks of the Comcast/NBC merger.
As always, edited for length and clarity.
What’s the change from WIMI to WCAI mean?
We liked the product we were selling, but there are two reasons for the switch from WINI to WCAI: We were spending a lot of time talking to people talking about social media and interactive media, but that’s not our differentiator. We’re the analytics guys. It’s not that social strategy and media strategy is not crucial, it’s just not where our strengths lie. There’s something in a title.
Number two: the name was limiting. If you’re a Google or Facebook it makes a lot of sense. But what if you are a Pfizer or an AT&T? “Interactive media” is probably the most interesting vertical, but it’s not the only one. Since we changed our name, the number of industries that have approached us has expanded from one to ten. Media, pharma, non-profit… All of a sudden everyone has an interest.
By labeling us the “customer analytics guys” we are being very precise about who we are speaking to at the company. We want to talk to the CTO, not necessarily the media analysts folks. Basically, we’ve really enforced that we’re the data guys.
When we last talked, you said you’d have a major by 2012. Still possible?
Yes. As a matter of fact, another department, Operations and Information Management, actually beat us to it. Their undergrad curriculum has a pending major for business analytics. In the near-to-short term the courses we offer will be part of that [curriculum] that we hope attracts engineers, economists and computer scientists, among others. It’s actually better for us to have someone building the infrastructure so we can focus on what we’re good at.
What are you up to these days?
We are stilling doing work for Hulu and ESPN but we’re wrapping them up. Now we’re on to StubHub and Expedia. Those are the two newest major projects. For StubHub, it’s predicting an individual’s consumption of airline tickets. For Expedia, they give us data on what hotels they show when people search for given terms. There are now ten different academic teams wading their way throughout the Expedia data set.
Since you were so close to Hulu, you must have unique insight on the Comcast/NBC merger today.
Was that approved today? I didn’t even know!
We have obviously had a lot of connection with Comcast and NBC. We’re wrapping that up right now. It would be great to do something with the new merged company. The challenge is that Comcast, for good reason, has lots of restrictions on their data.
What can we expect out of the new department?
The most important thing that we are doing now is that 2011 will be our year of mobile. We have a theme every year of people we’d like to partner with, and this year is mobile. We’re looking to work with and partner with mobile companies, so we’re going to put out a call for data. 2008 was social networks. 2009 was user generated content. 2010 was cross-platform networks.
We’d also love to work with non-profit organizations that have data on customer donations. No companies keep better customer data than non-profits that need donations. We’re even working with WHYY on this right now.

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