5 media companies share how they use data to drive reader, ad revenue
Conference Blog | 29 June 2021
With third-party cookies on the way out — though not as soon as originally planned — Internet users have more privacy to their data. But how can media companies gather user data to effectively grow their base, drive ad effectiveness, and support other business goals?
Media companies shared how they are doing just that during the INMA Smart Data for News Master Class in June. While some are using data and improving offerings through AI, machine learning, and partnerships, Piano is reconsidering what kinds of data are foundational to addressing business challenges. Third-party data is one thing, but zero-party data makes permission the new currency to solve key challenges, Nils Ove Riise, Piano’s general manager, Nordics, said.
“In Piano world, we say that zero-party data is the data the user gives up voluntarily, through registration,” Riise said.
This includes the user’s name, gender, and location. First-party data is the data consumed by content users are reading, Riise said. Gathering this data gives better ad performance, more privacy for users, and enables brands to have single customer views and profiles.
Riise added the first step is to just start collecting zero- and first-party data: “This can be done by a registration wall, a subscription — identify the users on your page that are loyal and willing to register.”
Media24 (South Africa)
Media24 began rethinking its data strategy in 2018. Up until that point, the company was focused on reach, placing ads alongside relevant content across its sites. Gareth Lloyd, head of data and analytics, said the change in thinking began with this question: What are our opportunities when it comes to subscriptions?
Media24 knew in to answer this, it had to focus on selling audiences based on customer behaviour instead of selling content. The company quickly found users who fell into multiple categories or segments.
“This led us into thinking we needed new metrics of engagement and overlays on engagement and uniqueness across segments,” Lloyd said.
Then when readers returned to the sites, Media24 was able to retarget them with relevant ads based on segment allocations.
Hearst Newspapers (United States)
Daniel Hallac, chief product officer at Hearst Newspapers, said the company always makes sure the information it has on customers is useful and can be applied in multiple ways.
“We may know that we have 10,000 users who are interested in, let’s say, buying a car,” he said. “But by developing lookalike capabilities, we obviously can find more people who are like them and infer that they also could be potential car buyers. And that’s a big part of helping our advertising business.”
The key thing to remember, Hallac said, is that being actionable isn’t just about advertising and targeting: “It’s for our marketing team to drive subscriptions or a newsletter sign-up. And it even goes into our content recommendation engines so we can ensure that we try to get the most sticky behaviour from our users.”
Need is the mother of invention. Agora discovered a need for its Web site to better compete with mainstream news sites, Joanna Balowska, the company’s director of sales and ad products development, said.
“Wyborcza.pl did not intend to compete with large horizontal portals from the beginning,” Balowska said. “She was supposed to build a subscription model on her tradition, DNA, with high-quality of content and grow her group of readers.”
Agora decided to go up against Google and create its own machine that learned user behaviour that could automatically assign content to categories and target ads accordingly. The programme also allowed advertisers to choose the categories where their ads would appear, specifically things like the automotive industry or health.
“Our advertisers have 25 thematic categories identical to the Google taxonomy, which not only facilitates data analysis but also positively influences search engine optimisation,” Balowska said.
As the third-party cookie disappears, the change creates both challenges and opportunities for publishers. Helene Slettemoen, director of insights and strategy at Diar, demonstrated how the company has created a new model of collaboration between news companies — called “coopetition” — to leverage first-party data and boost revenue.
“Coopetition is the act of cooperation between competing companies by forming a strategic alliance designed to help both companies,” she explained.
Through coopetition, two competing news media companies can both enjoy better advertising results: “By joining forces in a coopetition, Diar has access to the login of readers at both Aller and Amedia, a total of 1.8 million registered user accounts across 130 Norwegian publishers.”
This engaged Norwegian audience means advertisers have great potential to reach people, and Diar was designed to offer a stronger reach to two companies than either one could achieve separately. Slettemoen said Diar also offers a future-proof targeting solution because it is based on precise data, not the behavioural targeting methods used by third-party cookies.
Ekstra Bladet (Denmark)
Artificial Intelligence is undoubtedly being used by nearly all major news brands and is increasingly important to maintain a competitive news experience for readers, Kasper Lindskow, head of research and innovation at Ekstra Bladet, said.
He believes this will become even more important in the future, specifically for the news industry. Ekstra Bladet plans on getting ahead of the curve with AI by developing it within the business now.
“The space is now mature enough for us to develop some basic solutions that are fairly well known, and we are fairly sure they will create value in the business,” Lindskow said.
The goal is not to replace major online platforms, Lindskow added, but to use the same tools as the major online platforms, such as YouTube. If your company does not adapt to these new tools, users will find the news elsewhere and the brand will be obsolete.
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