Across the world today, most consumers who benefit from consistent and unrestricted access to the internet are familiar with Netflix as a global media-services provider.  Broadly, the Netflix service provides subscribers with the utility and practicality of ‘streaming’ films, shows, and documentaries that are available through an internet connection on personal computers, tablets, mobile phones, and so forth.

In this way, Netflix has effectively resulted in a pronounced behavioural shift in the way in which ‘televised’ media is consumed.  Unlike in the case of more traditional television viewership, Netflix subscribers do not need to modify their daily schedules to accommodate and watch their favourite series and films, because these are available to them ‘on demand’.

Even more significantly, guided by ‘thick data’ and insight provided by cultural anthropologist Grant McCraken, Netflix has capitalised on the knowledge that its subscribers often ‘binge-watch’ multiple episodes of a series over a brief span of time.  Following this and to great success, rather than releasing weekly episodes of original series, it continues to offer its subscribers all the episodes of the entire ‘season’ on release date.

McCraken intuited this tendency for binge-watching through following and talking to subscribers from all over the world as they used and interacted with the service in ‘natural’ settings – primarily their own homes and other environments where they spent time viewing their favourite series.

Whilst Netflix already previously possessed plenty of quantitative (or ‘Big’) data that revealed valuable information like which series were most popular in specific parts of the world, which series may ‘correspond’ to each other in terms of viewer preference, and so forth, it revealed very little in terms of the more nuanced and complex dimensions of viewer behaviour.  It could not reveal, for instance, that subscribers may feel ‘empowered’ when they ‘binge’ on a series more rapidly than their peers, because they know how that series progresses and possess the power to ‘spoil it’ for those peers.

This is what Thick Data is about.  Whilst Big Data is undoubtedly useful in answering questions like ‘When and Where do Users use Product X?’, Thick Data reveals the human stories behind consumption and seeks to answer two more complex questions: What does Product X do for its Users? and What does Product X mean for its Users and those around them?

Business Ventures