5 Best Practices for Getting Rich with Data
The buzz around "rich data" has been going on for several years, with the definition of the phrase bantered about at industry events. A rich data product is one in which reference content from several sources is broken down into the smallest useful units, linked to other supporting content, and then included in productivity software. In more simple terms, it’s about turning vast amounts of existing, often archived content into new electronic products. Although nuances in the definition can vary, a growing consensus is that rich data products leverage content in new ways and become important tools in the user’s day-to-day work.
Many publishers today are looking to develop new revenue streams. Rich data products allow them to obtain additional advertising and/or subscription revenue as well as potential premium sponsorships. For many business-to-business publishers, rich data revenue can be icing on the cake, as it leverages existing content in new and different ways.
Jumping right into developing a rich data product can be daunting and expensive. Knowing what steps to take is helpful to minimize the learning curve and make the most of staff time. How one gets rich from data varies by industry, but for publishers, the following best practices provide a framework to help with the process:
1Know what you have. Traditional publishers who serve multiple markets often develop content and products along various vertical industries they serve. This is certainly understandable, but also a recipe for not knowing the relationships between content within the organization. Understanding what each product line (print, online, databases) has and how interesting relationships can be formulated is key to developing rich data products that people will want. Getting the right product managers into a room to discuss potential relationships can help identify content synergy and refine a potential strategy. Knowing what you have and how the content can relate to each other is an important aspect to any successful rich data product.
2Know what you don’t have. Part of the challenge of creating rich data products is identifying what content exists in the marketplace that would complement the content you already have. Product managers generally know what other publishers are doing in the marketplace and what content other publishers have that would add increased value to their own product lines. Developing a partnership to supplement your content, and creating a link between your content and your partner’s content can make your product more valuable than it would be built on your own content. This can turn into increased revenue from advertisers or subscribers.
3Know how to manage what you have and need. Given that most rich data products are comprised of many types of content, publishers need to streamline the management of disparate data types. Having a consolidated repository (generally XML content with binary image files) is often the most practical way to manage content. Setting up such a system can be a large undertaking, but ultimately, understanding what technology exists within the publisher’s environment and/or procuring the appropriate tools is important. Otherwise, the amount of time it takes to manage the data may make the product impractical to launch and maintain.
4Know when to say “when.” When should you pursue rich data products? When shouldn’t you pursue them? Timing of a rich data product launch is probably not the most important issue. It is best to prototype a rich data product to minimize expenses while verifying the receptivity of your audience. Why spend months developing a rich data product only to find out that no one is using the product? Some publishers are able to quickly produce a product to see how their audience uses the product and make adjustments according to the usage. Prototyping minimizes your expenses and helps mold the product into a better audience experience, and ultimately more revenue from advertisers. The point is that publishers should not cautiously wait for the perfect time to launch a rich data product, but rather experiment with new ideas and concepts to test their viability.
5Know who you serve. Understanding your audience and how and when they use or want to use your content is the most important aspect of developing rich data products. Building cool rich data products that aren’t used will likely cost a lot of money with no return. Getting the rich data product embedded into the user’s daily routine or workflow is the best scenario possible. Rich data products work best when they become an indispensable part of the user’s day-to-day tasks. Know who you are serving and verify the audience frequently.
Rich data products are nothing new. Publishers are recognizing the value-add they can provide to their audiences and the additional advertising and/or subscription revenue they can enjoy. How a publisher leverages its assets by finding the interrelationships between content types is the key to a successful rich data product.
Don’t wait for the perfect time, just do it. If something is not used, maybe the product’s placement on the Web site is a problem, or the content is not that valuable to the audience. Regardless, you will learn something that should help formulate a product strategy. Finding the right formula for your business takes time, but when done right will help you develop your Web audience and retain the advertising revenue that you work so hard to obtain.
Barry Bealer is president/CEO and co-founder of Really Strategies Inc., a content management solutions and services company that helps publishers and media companies better create, manage, publish and distribute their content. He can be reached at BBEALER@REALLYSI.COM.