INMA Congress: Nine and others on the value of data

May 19, 2022 at 03:19 am by admin

The ‘clear value exchange’ with customers of Australia’s Nine publications was one of several key concepts outlined during a session of INMA’s virtual World Congress of News Media event.

Head of product and data Euan Fisher says the publisher’s data vision is to have a good view of who the customer is and use that information to drive long-term competitive advantage.

Beyond competitive advantage for advertising, that’s about marketing, programming, editorial, and sales operations. “So we want to look at it holistically,” he said.

Three key areas are data collection – in which there must be a clear value exchange with customers – control of who can access the data and when, with permissions given both internally and externally, and activation.

Fisher says Nine tackled challenges such as structure, fragmentation and identity. He said the goal “wasn’t necessarily to centralise the data” – since the ROI on that was hard to measure – but rather building a product, and then showing how it can be used in relation to business goals.

“We are using a whole bunch of projects or initiatives that the organisation wants anyhow, and we are taking the opportunity to bring the data into a centralised infrastructure so that we get the goal that we need to for our data strategy, but at the same time, making it much more efficient for delivering these projects.”

But he says data collection should be taken seriously, and it doesn’t always follow that because they have it, they should always use it. “We’ve made a choice to be quite conservative with what data we share, particularly our consumer data, across the organisation.

“We feel the values of our subscribers are such that we want to be quite careful with what we share and how we share it.”

Fisher (pictured) was one of several speakers in the second of the Congress’s seven modules.

Earlier News UK’s data general manager Pedro Cosa spoke of the “long haul” of transformational structural change needed at all levels of a company, with the need to balance traditional media with the growth of digital.

He said customer behaviours and media consumption methods were changing, with data helping publishers both grow but also future-proof their businesses.

News’ traditional brands such as The Times and the Sun have been joined by several radio stations and a new TV channel, with the company investing heavily in building its data capabilities.

A data literacy assessment – to learn how data was being used across the company – led to the creation of a ‘One Enterprise’ data strategy, aligning data strategy across all brands. Cosa said

A five-pillar data strategy included data leadership – with “data partners” within each title’s senior leadership team – a transparent data framework, and proactive data governance.

Data partners work with a ‘data hub’ team, supporting all the brands, and with teams dedicated to analytics, governance, insights, and data strategy, working closely with the technology team to deliver.

Also key is the organisation’s data culture – with “data democratisation” efforts including both data fluency and access, with dashboards and reports.

The fifth pillar is innovation and future focus. Cosa says News UK had been using financial KPIs to measure success, but wanted to show how metrics could be used to track and influence customer behaviour to change those KPIs.

At The Economist, chief data officer Karine Serfaty said gaps and silos had been two areas of interest. “Gaps are missing pieces of capabilities,” she said, “and silos are an interesting situation because there are two different parts of teams working with different data sets, so there’s a gap between the behavioural data of how people interact with the product vs. the contextual data of what’s people’s status with us in terms of being a subscriber or not, having lapsed, having resubscribed … and so on.

“It’s a major challenge because the state of the data mirrors the environment in which those teams are evolving.”

Serfaty advocated rethinking the overall approach to data, with a new data platform and a five-part approach of their own.

It includes business strategy – using filters to estimate growth – metrics used in the setting of goals, capabilities, and “an agile, value-first mindset”. Serfaty said The Economist had seen positive results in every area of the “virtuous growth cycle”.

From the Gannett/USA Today Network, chief data officer Nate Rackiewicz spoke of analytics and Big Data – “the driving forces behind some of the biggest digital innovations in the past six decades” – adding that “data exists to facilitate digital transformation in media organistions, and digital transformation exists to facilitate a business outcome”.

Rackiewicz has ample experience of using data to create engaging and subscription-based products, having spent nearly two decades with the technology and content strategy teams at HBO. After helping launch what is now HBO Max, he worked with A&E networks and the video game industry.

The Gannett culture of “empowering communities to thrive” had led to investments in data and data science.

Key business questions for media organisations looking to transform included the descriptive – “what happened and why” – predictive analytics to help companies forecast, and prescriptive analytics, taking advantage of machine learning and AI to explore different scenarios.

Throughout evolution of the analytics journey, a big question was whether AI was just hype, with buzzwords such as metaverse, virtual and augmented reality; “the next big thing or just trending concept”.

The World Congress continues throughout May on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Registration is available here for all or individual sessions.

–with INMA's writing team

Sections: Digital business


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