The Digital Analytics Association (DAA) announced today (Jan. 8, 2024) that they are shutting down operations. This marks the end of an era. According to their email:

We have seen decreased community engagement with DAA over the past few years, and, in turn, decreased funding, so we must close.

This comes after (anecdotally) lackluster attendance at their OneConference, where they appeared to struggle to get sponsorships. Most industry veterans aren’t surprised by the announcement. There are a lot of reasons this happened (a LOT), but talking about why the organization became insolvent isn’t productive; nor would it capture all of its nuance. Instead, I want to use this opportunity for a little self-reflection and commentary on the state of the industry.

How the DAA shaped me

I’ve been in the web analytics space since I was maybe 15 or 16. Back then, I had no clue this was a career. I built websites and wanted people to look at them. That was it. I used a server log tool called AWStats (which is still around) and it gave me this depth of data that I thought couldn’t be possible. In 2000 and 2001, you couldn’t imagine how exciting it was to see that someone from ACROSS THE WORLD was looking at your content! It was such an incredible and novel thing.

The novelty of analytics was something I got into way before there was a formal industry. In a world full of hit counters, I had a freaking hit ACCOUNTANT. It felt powerful! When I officially entered the industry in 2009, it turns out other people were just discovering this novelty with tools like Google Analytics (formerly Urchin). People were shouting “data is the new oil” – and I was the one collecting this data! I was drilling the oil (without destroying the planet)!

That’s when I first discovered the Web Analytics Association. This group had a bunch of people JUST LIKE ME who were thrilled to share their passion in the space. I attended Atlanta’s Web Analytics Wednesdays, participated in the Web Analytics Exchange as a student and mentor, and met folks I still talk to today. The tech was emerging and investment was everywhere (interest rates were 0%!). As the industry formalized a grew, the WEB Analytics Association matured into the DIGITAL Analytics Association. Throughout its existence, it housed all of the thought leaders in the industry. While I wouldn’t always look to the DAA for career guidance, I’d look to the people who were part of it.

Through the talent in and around the DAA, we had a charge – a vision. It wasn’t just to evangelize analytics – it was to demystify it and help companies DO stuff with the data they collect. And here we are. Did we collectively achieve that goal?

How analytics is changing

If analytics had a face, the DAA would be a mirror. If you’ve been paying attention, you might notice that our industry feels… different. At first, I thought it was me. Maybe I’m burnt out. Am I being too cynical? I had to have reached out to a dozen people – almost all of them felt the same way. Something’s up. Was it the pandemic? Is it the “death of the cookie”? Is it EU regulations? Inflation? Interest rates? Post-pandemic over-hiring? Agency acquisitions? AI? UA sunset? I spent a lot of time trying to rationalize or articulate what might be happening.

In a world where industries go through feasts and famines – we’ve spent over a decade feasting. We had a vision. We were building all sorts of incredible tech to:

  1. Collect the data!
  2. Display the data!
  3. Hand it off to marketing and let them figure out what to do with it
  4. QA the data!

What happened? Job prospects aren’t even close to what they used to be. New tech seems to have dried up. Look no further than the DAA Quanties Breakout Technology category award where the “best new tech” is a glorified product feature or tag management template. Fewer organizations looking for “analytics unicorns” (people who know the tech AND business side of it) and instead opt into hiring hyper-specialists.

When I left Search Discovery in December of last year, I had a number of conversations with folks who were worried about the industry. Is it worth hanging around? Are we being commoditized? Will this industry even exist in 5 years?

The analytics industry is a mess

Don’t confuse the fall of the DAA with the canary in the coal mine. It’s not that. The industry is very much alive. It’s not well, but it’s not dying. It’s like a lingering stomach bug. Over the past couple years, industry vets (including some board members) would privately look at the DAA and say “wow, you look like shit.” Well, yeah. We’ll eventually recover, but only after enough has been purged (okay, this is getting gross).

Truth is that the folks running the DAA really do care about the industry (just like we all do). But we’re collectively struggling to figure out what the hell to do with it and it’s obvious. Unfortunately, they’re a casualty.

Final Thoughts

With all of this said, there is a lot of opportunity if you can filter the signal from the noise (there is a LOT of noise). I’m sad to see the DAA go. A lot of incredible people who I admire were part of elevating it and analytics. Now? We need a reset. I’m not sure what will emerge, but an increasingly-decentralized workplace produces a bigger need for community. It’s been quite a ride, DAA.

5 thoughts on “RIP DAA”

  1. There will always be a market for turning data into insights.
    An insight is “an unexpected shift in the way we understand things.” Is this what you meant by signal vs. noise?

    Maybe I’ve missed out, but what exactly is so obvious about the industry that needs purging???

    • Hey Mike – I think there’s intentional and incidental purging. I don’t know what should be intentionally purged and I don’t have a perspective around that. However, as an outcome of current market volatility the DAA was incidentally purged – that was just in the context of the stomach bug metaphor. I wouldn’t read it literally as “a purge”. After all, you eat food that’s supposed to be nutritious without the intent of throwing it up. The point is that the industry has a stomach bug and the DAA just happened to be a victim of that.

      • Ah! Incidental purging makes a ton of sense. That said, it sounds like a lot of noise needs to be purged, too.

        However, there is still a very strong community (thanks to the Measure Slack) and a couple of other poles, most of whom are still focused on insight discovery and business value improvement. Unless I’ve missed that, too. (It’s been a few years.)

  2. I share a lot of your feelings, Jim.

    Having been int he belly of the beast for 20 years (no – [please no stomach bug analogies here!), all I can add is that the incredible people who were excited about starting a new industry put in a LOT of energy, enthusiasm, and good will in making that happen.

    Twenty years on, the industry is no longer the exciting, dynamic thing that it was and the number of people excitingly dedicating blood, sweat, and tears to make the DAA run has slowly dwindled.

    I’ve always maintained that the DAA was ‘membership driven and volunteer powered’. We experienced a lack of cohesion about what the membership wanted – too many people wanting too man different things – and a precipitous decline of volunteers who were willing to… volunteer. With the drop of membership and event revenue, the org simply couldn’t afford to create things that volunteers wouldn’t. And then came Covid.

    Curiously, the Marketing Analytics Summit enjoyed a larger attendance in 2023 than in 2019. So, the interest in the subject is alive and well, and the Marketing Analytics Summit will carry on as it did before the WAA/DAA, but something has happened to volunteerism in this sector.

    So, it’s been quite a ride, indeed. To everything, there is a season.

    • Completely agree. Maybe the scope of the DAA was too narrow – meaning we built walls around the culture we created over a decade ago… before a lot of us had kids and were fighting to ascend from obscure junior roles. Building a culture of volunteerism means we’re doing compelling work AND meeting people where they are. MAS is an excellent example of how far we can take it – and I’m certain there’s even more room to grow. The DAA built a great foundation years ago. It’s a good time to work toward reframing the industry.


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