Big Data for Brazilian dummies

Brazil's biggest current affairs magazine ran a cover story on the topic of Big Data. Why is that important to readers, after all?

I was a little surprised when I saw that the biggest current affairs magazine in Brazil had chosen a rather niche subject for its cover piece last week – big data.

Veja is one of the oldest weeklies in the country with distribution of over a million copies. Its cover stories could be about anything from Angelina Jolie’s mastectomy to the latest corruption scandal, but last edition covered the basics of big data and what it means to the man on the street.

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Veja's cover story (photo by Angelica Mari)


The piece, written by a magazine correspondent in New York, used US case studies of how analytics capability is employed at businesses such as Target, Amazon and Google. Examples such as gunfire locator ShotSpotter and Brad Pitt's movie Moneyball were used to illustrate big data scenarios.  An infographic explaining information storage units, as well as processing speed,  was also included.

While all of this of this may seem a bit basic – especially for ZDNet readers – a bit of context gives some food for thought:

Veja’s typical reader, according to its publisher Abril, belongs to the top of the social pyramid (about 71% belong to the so-called A and B classes, basically the wealthiest chunk of Brazilian society) and the largest slice of its readership pie is about 25-34 years old.  

These people own the latest gadgets, publish their photos on Instagram and videos on Vine, access company mail through a BYOD client, stream music via Spotify and watch movies on Netflix without ever thinking about what a zettabyte is – despite talking about technology all the time, all they know is that they want instant access to any information they want and ability to store anything they need.

Veja’s cover story could have been published by a publication in the US – as it doesn’t include any big data examples that reflect the trends in Brazil –  but the cheat sheet is relevant to the magazine’s audience, particularly when it comes to how businesses are using the information that they give away. 

Sure, the magazine readers might know about how credit scoring works, but did it cross their minds that MasterCard knows that people who fill up at the gas station are likely to spend 50 dollars at a supermarket or restaurant an hour later? From my personal experience and observations, Brazilians are a lot more relaxed about how their data is collected and used than their European or American counterparts – but this might well change as people start to get a better understanding of these practices.

Regardless of how it is approached, it is interesting to see that a generic publication would print a story entirely focused on big data, because it highlights that the priorities of technology decision-makers and what João and Maria do in their digital lives are totally intertwined. And that IT is definitely no longer for geeks only.