It’s the Dawn of Adaptive Content in B2B Publishing
The following is Part 2 of Andy Kowl’s report on data-driven sales. He caught up with several B2B publishers at the Niche Digital Conference in September to discover how they are using audience data to drive revenue and sell new products. Here Kowl shares how ALM is utilizing “deep” data, not big data, to offer targeted, individualized content to its readers.
Headline writers have been serving two masters for a while. Last decade they worried about keywords for SEO in addition to keeping the core readers in mind. Today they must entice those on social media to share stories, not just read them. Are you prepared to add one or two more considerations?
At ALM some stories and headlines are written to find out where people are in the buying cycle. When they construct an article like “10 Things to Consider When Firing Outside Counsel,” chances are that a good percentage of those reading it may be open to hiring new outside counsel. The publisher of The National Law Journal and other media serving lawyers can cross-reference this with related facts about these readers, making this one data nugget akin to a lead-gen campaign.
Writing some articles to match buying cycles in your market makes great sense. And it is one of the many strategies ALM is implementing using its data assets, says Jeffrey Litvack, group president and chief digital officer. Read more tips from Litvack on how data can drive revenue for B2B publishers in Part 1 of this series.
Taxonomy Makes Data Actionable
I talk to B2B publishers all the time who have yet to get serious about building their audience data capability. Easily 90% of those publishers have multiple data silos. They do not aggregate their most basic incoming data like subscriptions, newsletter/site registration, and product purchases.
Making this data actionable takes preparation. You need a highly nuanced taxonomy to tell the data what to do. If you were to develop buying-cycle articles, could your system differentiate them from every other article on the same topic? Can you tie in clicks from newsletter articles with actions taken on your website? You have to balance multiple levels of detail while making sure you do not end up with endless, increasingly useless, one-off data points. This is no job for a CMS like WordPress or Drupal.
“The dawn of adaptive content” is how Litvack describes the state of digital media. Taxonomy drives contextual relationships among content and offers. This is what enables ALM to match what they know of each individual audience member with actions to reach that person. “Don’t forget to include ad-based taxonomy terms along with editorial,” Litvack advised. In my experience, good taxonomy can go three or four levels deep.
Individualization of Content
When an attorney visits an ALM site, she may see a list of “Trending with Partners in Your Firm.” This is quite different from “Most Popular,” which is probably on your website. At some point ALM readers may see a list of articles trending at a competitive firm. Another example of adaptive content is that your newsletter can have articles based on cases your firm has handled, judges you have been in court with, other articles you have read, or cases you are actively working. My newsletter will be different from yours based on the evolving variables in our master profiles.
I call this individualization when planning with clients. Marry your data with the right taxonomy and you can deliver articles of the highest interest to each reader individually. In the software we use, the results get increasingly more refined as those who share multiple demographic characteristics read more articles. Once an individual has read an article, it is not offered to them again. If you help someone easily discover exactly what s/he wants, this can become a virtuous cycle: more engagement > better context > even more engagement > more data. Include products, events, and content marketing in your contextual offerings. If you cannot do all this today, at least get started merging all registration and purchase data into one record per reader to be better prepared for tomorrow. As Litvack said, “Perfection is not what I’m going for.”
Time is not on your side. Remember, in addition to your direct competitors, the entire industry of programmatic advertising has been built on the premise big data can reach the buyers in your audience cheaper than you can. And they are not bound by your platforms. Your own first party data -- deep data, not big data -- is your best advantage.
Andy Kowl is a journalist and entrepreneurial publisher with more than 30 years developing, marketing and growing publishing companies. He is senior vice president of publishing strategy for ePublishing Inc., the leading enterprise publishing system (EPS) provider which manages content, audience data, workflow, newsletters and e-commerce for hundreds B2B online publications. He helps publishers increase reader engagement and response by integrating behavioral data with contextual content, and shows them direct ways to monetize the results. Andy writes the B2B Beat blog for Publishing Executive magazine. His background in B2B includes publishing, editing and/or owning magazines and information products covering specialty retail, horse breeding, real estate, credit unions, Wall Street compliance and wireless technology.