The Digital Potential Of Open Data

No longer tied to the Freedom of Information Act: The rise in open data and real-time information – Creative Marketeers, see what’s available!

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When thinking up a great inbound marketing campaign, designed to attract attention and provide a flurry of quality links, it’s sometimes necessary to think slightly outside the box.

Statistics are always great for creating a good story, but depending on what sector our client is in there will be a different amount of readily available data, and sometimes this data – which we need to create a useful, statistics filled online PR campaign – comes with a bit of a cost. So it can be challenging to conjure up an inspiring and never-been-seen-before idea that also keeps costs low. But this can now be thought about a little differently with the release of easy to access real-time data and open data.

One of the best sources is free – avaliable from, who claim to be publishing new datasets everyday. And from obvious topics you would expect to see there, like healthcare, public spending and education, you can also find some unexpected gems or search via location (invaluable for area specific campaigns and local businesses). You can already access a large amount of data via the Freedom of Information Act, but these requests are only available from a certain number of organisations and can either be refused if the request is for information deemed too sensitive or turned down if it would cost the organisation more than £450 to fulfil.

Open data has been released by the government in an attempt for them to appear transparent. Francis Maude, the man responsible for, said in 2012 that “we need to release the data that will support new businesses, help existing ones to grow and enhance public services.” But currently not enough businesses know about the service, or consider the possibilities from free real time data available via free apps.

The MET Office

There are 6,000 registered users for the open data weather service. I have the MET Office app on my phone and they only get their ‘by the hour’ weather predictions wrong about 20% of the time (and let’s face it, weather doesn’t play by the rules) so that’s not a bad margin for error. Cross this real time weather info with the live updated tube information readily available through websites and apps, and you’ve got a business. Richard Pope created Bicycle Barometer, a service which helps Londoners decide whether its quicker/drier to get the tube or cycle to work. Genius. And not just useful for business ideas, for anyone that works with a business affected by weather – from tourism and seasonal activities to insurers and risk management and business continuity companies – this data could form the basis of an ad campaign a promotion or a clever PR stunt. Using this kind of data for advertising is done by supermarkets every year – you’ll see a BBQ advert when the sun is out, or a rainy day food idea when it’s drizzling outside. Why not set up some PPC for your air conditioning company for the day you know a heat wave will hit a certain northern city – or run a 20% off swimwear, portable BBQs and flipflops only in Manchester to capitalise on the sunshine as soon as it hits.  To be honest, it’s not a real head scratcher – but it definitely works.

House Prices

Another free data service is house prices. Far from being just something to use in promotion of buying and selling houses, if you were a local business you may be able to turn these into a reason to use your services. House prices in a certain location(s) could also be worked into an infographic to help you decide where to send your children to school (based on where you can afford to buy a house), where you should set up a new business (based on letting costs and the amount of wealth in the area) and if you should rent or buy in a certain area – which could transpire into a gem of a campaign idea for a company offering buildings and contents insurance, landlords insurance or even student housing options. The Land Registry data available goes back almost twenty years and so can also give you insight into where the market could be heading too.

Companies House

Companies House gives you access to company information such as the registered office address, the previous company names, the directors’ details, when the accounts were filed or due and a history of the filed documents. For a mere £1 more you can access filed documents such as accounts, annual returns and reports. Or for a more detailed look into a specific organisation, visit to access the roles and salaries of the top bods in a number of organisations such as the Driving Standards Agency, The British Musuem, The Tate Modern and Ofsted.

From the toughest B2B to the quirkiest B2C companies, with enough digging around into the data available and a bit of a good old fashioned brainstorming there is massive potential in the data currently available. However, the Government doesn’t know what data businesses need, so there is still some way to go before there is a completely cohesive system in place. And until then, if there is something you think it would be great to know, the Freedom Of Information Act is there for you to get the stats you want and let the government know what information they should make available in the future.

We’d love to hear how these resources have been utilised. So whether you’ve found the free government resources useful or have discovered data sources elsewhere for campaign use, why not share your stories below and help to inspire others.

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