7 Takeaways from the 2018 FUSE Media Summit Keynote
To kick off this year’s FUSE Media Summit, Northstar Travel Group CDO Matthew Yorke took the stage to talk about data and the role it plays in today’s media landscape in a keynote presentation titled “How Data & Technology Have Changed What it Means to Be a Media Company.”
Media and advertising, Yorke stressed, has shifted to an audience-based model and media companies must embrace this paradigm to survive. “We have to accept the dynamics of the market in which we operate today where, frankly, a smart, sophisticated customer has an awful lot of data. They’ll have a CRM file and they can upload that, they can target that, they can do lookalike modeling against it, and never even need to come to us.”
Yorke also emphasized that publishers’ competitive set is constantly broadening in the data marketplace, whether it’s Google, Facebook, Dun & Bradstreet, Bombora, 6sense, or Mintigo, all of which could be partners one minute and competitors the next. Yorke says what we’re seeing in the market is a technology arms race of sorts.
“At the core of everything you’re seeing going on is the application of technology powered by data. Everyone’s talking about data. Everyone’s data hungry.”
Those who can use data effectively to tailor and craft their content approach will win, said Yorke, and those who can’t will find it increasingly hard to compete.
Below are seven takeaways from Yorke's keynote as he explored the state of media, technology, and data today. Watch the video above for more highlights.
1. The Acceleration of Technology
Yorke noted that it took around 140 years from the time the printing press was first invented for newspapers to reach 50 million people. As technologies evolved, it took radio just 38 years to reach that same penetration level. Facebook took around three years to grow to 50 million users. Pokémon Go reached 50 million in just 19 days. The race is on, Yorke pointed out, to see what product, service, or technology can reach the 50 million mark in a day or less.
At the same time the pace of technological adoption is increasing, however, it is also getting more complex. The promise of technology is that it will streamline and simplify our lives, but the reality is that it is doing just the opposite.
For publishers, this means recognizing that at any given time, the tools and technologies for reaching audiences and earning revenue will need to quickly need to evolve. Publishers must learn to be flexible, trying new things and keeping what works, while moving on quickly from what doesn’t.
2. It’s Not a Fair Fight
Digital marketing technology is powered by data and, unfortunately for publishers, they’re not competing on a level playing field, said Yorke. Companies like Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft have stacked the decks, and publishers have to fight for the leftovers. Everything people do online — from searching to shopping to reading news articles — is seen and analyzed by the proverbial 800-pound gorillas of the internet. They can make bigger predictions with more accuracy because they have access to far more data.
This doesn’t mean publishers are out of the fight completely. Rather, it means every media company needs to be smarter about the types of data they collect across all platforms, and more savvy about analyzing and using that data to tailor both the content itself and the delivery mechanism for each specific audience segment or individual.
3. Chinks in the Armor
Yorke pointed out that it certainly isn’t completely hopeless when it comes to the big internet players — there are chinks in the armor that present opportunities for publishers of all sizes. For example, just before FUSE Media Summit convened in early October, the report that 50 million Facebook accounts were hacked surfaced, causing widespread concern. And earlier this year, there was controversy over Amazon Alexa platform listening to people’s conversations and sharing personal data.
Because of these very high-profile stumbles, Yorke believes that although consumers aren’t abandoning the platforms, they are approaching them with skepticism. The average viewing time of marketing messages on Facebook, for example, he pointed out, is right around one to three seconds. And marketers know it.
This is an opportunity for media companies, who have the content to create far more meaningful engagements with the people marketers want to reach. It might not be impressions on the scale Facebook or Google can offer, but when the readers are spending time with the content and actually clicking through on offers, quality begins to make up for the quantity. “I’m very bullish about media,” Yorke said, for this very reason.
4. Readers are Paying Up
Another positive trend that publishers can build upon is that readers are becoming more comfortable with paying for content. If the content is relevant to them and is delivered via the platform they prefer, readers are likely to spend the money. This reader revenue could take the form of subscriptions, but it could also be an opportunity for micropayments, where readers pay a small fee to access a single piece of content or to access content for short window of time. Yorke also noted that alternative currencies like Bitcoin could help fuel the microtransaction model as it becomes more standardized and stable over the next few years.
5. The Role of AI
Yorke pointed out that artificial intelligence isn’t new — in fact, it’s been around in some form since the 1940s. However, the opportunity, he said, is the modern push to use it to drive genuine experiences. “It [will enable] mass one-to-one experiences, not one to many,” he said. This is where big data really starts to shine — publishers with the right datasets can drive personalized experiences based on what is known about that specific user in real time.
An example, Yorke pointed out, is the way Netflix personalizes its streaming platform for every individual user. It tracks what you watch, what you’ve rated, and how you spend your time on its platform, and serves up a personalized experience for every single user, with recommendations based on their individual preferences. Media companies can take that example and apply it to their own model — instead of a static home page with the same articles for every user, why not provide each visitor with the content they are most likely to enjoy? (Some are beginning to do this). Not only with that encourage those readers to return more often, it will lead to far longer and more meaningful engagements on every visit to your site.
This is where AI comes into play — no human can decide what content each individual person should see in real time, no matter how much data is available. But tech tools designed to parse incoming data and make recommendations on the fly – such as recommendation engines, whether standalone or a feature of a CDP or analytics dashboard – can enhance the relationship between the publisher and the reader.
6. Reimagining Media
“In an era of GDPR, a direct relationship with consumers is becoming more important,” said Yorke. Publishers need to start getting more serious about collecting and using first-party data. The problem, he pointed out, is that many media companies today either don’t have or aren’t confident in their underlying datasets, making it difficult to move forward with the kind of modern, personalized content creation and delivery today’s marketplace calls for.
Ironically, Yorke noted, some of the richest data a publishing company has, especially in the B2B sector, is the qualification cards readers are asked to fill out to receive a free subscription. Yorke notes that pulling that data into a platform that can merge it with data from other sources, such as online behaviors, event attendance, open engagements, time spent with specific content or whether they tend to engage in the mornings or the afternoons — all of these datasets can come together to create a more nuanced understanding of the readership, both as a whole and on an individual level. “All this data allows us to begin to think differently about media,” Yorke said. “It is an opportunity to begin building — at scale — true one-to-one experiences.”
7. Continuous Innovation
At the end of the day, the challenge for publishers is how to bring all of this together into a cohesive technology stack that delivers exactly the right content, at exactly the right time, on exactly the right platform for every unique subscriber or visitor who engages with a media brand. Those brands, Yorke noted, provide the foundation for the entire media operation — they give publishers something no startup or technology conglomerate has: credibility and authority. The trick is finding ways to build the technology on top of that solid foundation.
Publishers, he stressed, need to get away from thinking of technology investments as cost centers, and instead view them as potential revenue centers. Extracting insights from first-and third-party data, accelerated by AI, publishers can bring “audience and intent together to identify the right individuals to target,” said Yorke. Doing so will make publishers more valuable to marketers than the sheer scale the internet goliaths can offer.
Publishers who find the right balance between technology, data and content — and who constantly strive to meet readers wherever they want to go next — will be the ones who see the most success in a fast-changing media industry.