Why Digital Publishers Don’t Want to be Late to the Data Dance

The term Big Data although prevalent throughout our industry is not a new concept. For years finance companies, print publishers, catalogers have invested millions in CRM systems and established relationships with data management companies that facilitated the capturing of data and the decisioning of segmentation, creative, and offers to create 1to1 (what a throwback term that is) communications between a customer and a company.

So it would appear what is old is new again.

In Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends 2012 presentation she displayed a series of “Re-Imaginations.” I suggest that we are experiencing a re-imagination of data usage in the digital age.

With the rise of data exchanges, DSPs, SSPs, and trading desks, data usage and privacy are top of mind for digital professionals. Interestingly enough, all of the aforementioned entities have two major things in common: a focus on intelligently monetizing data and none of them have a direct relationship with the consumer.

Publishers would want to take notice that within the last 12-24 months, there has been significant growth in this sector with a majority of these companies leveraging your end-user data. This should raise a flag of opportunity within your own publishing organization on how you could be using what you already own: to create unique customer experiences, data-driven marketing plans, first-party segments for media sales and consumption — and to unite the data from disparate data sources under the common goal of driving overall business strategy informed by the usage of data.

If there are three things I could share with digital publishers they are as follows:

Know who you want to bring to the dance. Your data strategy is not owned by one group. It is a shared function across sales, marketing, editorial, technology, and operations. Most data strategies fall short because not all the right people are invited to the dance. So make sure early on you know who to include and have an idea on how data will help drive success in their part of the organization.

Don’t just window shop – try some things on. There are so many solutions out there. There a stand-alone DMPs, DMPs that look and feel like an SSP, or DMPs that look and feel like a DSP. Every publisher’s situation is unique and every product offering is slightly different, so it is extremely important to assess the data needs across your organization and test multiple providers.

Just Dance. This is an opportunity to learn. This is not a point in time solution but an ongoing strategy that will continue to refine and “re-imagine” itself as technological innovations advance, as users become more educated about the digital data trail they leave, and as publishers become more intuitive to deliver experiences that create value for consumers.

There is an associated risk of loss of control for the “wall flower” publishers. Loss of control in your data, loss of control in your USP in media sales, loss of control in cultivating loyal consumers who look to you for unique and valued experiences.

I once had a co-worker who told me, “Direct marketers will be the prom queens of the Internet.” Not until now do I think that statement has been fully realized. And it’s not because of a direct marketer’s association to performance based marketing, but moreover, it relates to a direct marketer’s data principles.

There is a direct marketer in all us. Let your data geek free.


Shelly is a contributor at The Makegood and VP of Marketing Services at quadrantONE, a joint venture of the media companies Tribune Company, Gannett Co., Inc., Hearst Corporation and The New York Times Company.

  • Andrew Casale

    Completely agree. Publishers that have direct access to first party data (ie. registered users) are sitting on goldmines, and those that don’t can create data in ways they might not immediately find obvious, but should start exploring. Unlocking the value of this data is incredibly valuable when differentiating the value proposition of one environment from the seemingly endless sea of supply that is accessible today. The demand side wants it, and smart publishers will employ solutions that allow them to offer it while still protecting the data’s integrity and shielding its access to only those who should have access to it. The fear of the data “getting into the wrong hands” should not stop publishers from exploring this opportunity as solutions do exist, in market, that offer the necessary protections while still yielding the benefits of it.