What Are the Must-Have Tools in Any Media Tech Stack?
As a consultant, I’ve learned to love having conversations with industry colleagues about the future direction of the media business. Sometimes the discussion focuses on the future of editorial operations. Other times, it focuses on how audience engagement is evolving. Topics like changing business models, the move to subscription models, the growing importance of data, and a host of other topics come up in conversations just about everywhere I turn.
But as a technologist, my favorite discussion is about how the tech stack at media companies is going through an overhaul. And, depending on who you talk to -- and what business they are in -- there are many opinions about what a media brand’s tech stack should look like.
While there is no single answer that fits all media companies, there are definitely some key elements that need to be in anyone’s stack to succeed. Let’s take a look at several in detail.
Analytics Needs to Go Deeper
One area going through a huge transition is the analytics part of the tech stack. Several years ago, we all survived with tools like Google Analytics or Adobe’s SiteCatalyst product.
But with the social growing in importance, mobilization on the rise, and a push to build analytics-driven teams, simply leveraging a tool like GA is just not good enough anymore. To be successful, media brands need to implement advanced analytics tools like Parse.ly or Chart Beat so that their content and marketing teams can better react to the way audience members are interacting with content.
And don’t just limit yourself to tools that focus on headlines. Recently, I started using HotJar at one my customers to gather insights on site usage, which is changing the way we are working on upcoming site designs.
Social tracking has also evolved significantly in the last few years. One of the biggest complaints I had about SiteCatalyst was its inability to give me great insights on what was happening on my social channels. Media brands don’t need to have that frustration anymore. From tools like TweetDeck to products like BuzzSumo, there are now a host of tools available that can provide true insight into what is and is not trending in your social channels. You can also better learn who your industry influencers are -- something we all need to better understand.
Many media brands worry that email is dead. The reality is that email is not dead. It’s simply changing. In fact, one of biggest changes in the media tech stack is happening on the email front.
For years, we relied on email service providers (ESPs) or fulfillment vendors with email capabilities to reach the inboxes of our audience members. Today, we are learning that marketing automation tools, such as Marketo and Hubspot, have replaced ESPs as the main email tools for media brands. These tools not only handle email deployments but allow media brands to build customer journeys that increase engagement through email channels.
Databases Take Center Stage Again
Ok, so most people will tell me that the audience database is one of the key elements of any media brand’s business. And that’s absolutely a true statement. But for years, we made a lot of missteps in how we handled our audience databases. We distributed data among tools. Many did a bad job aligning print, online, and event databases. We didn’t invest in the tools we needed to mine data and better communicate with our audiences.
Fortunately, this is all starting to change. Over the last two years, media brands have been dumping big amounts of money into their database architecture, and from these investments we’ve seen some cool developments.
First, the promise of a unified data warehouse is real for media brands today. Whether growing it in house or leveraging a third-party tool, many brands have or are planning to implement a warehouse where data from various sources can be brought together. This is leading to better list segmentations, better understanding of user behavior, and ultimately more intelligence around the way we communicate with our audience.
The data warehouse, however, is only the tip of the iceberg. Media brands now have tools at their disposal, such as customer data platforms (CDPs) and remarketing tools, that allow brands to better segment their audience and deliver targeted messaging to segments both on and off site.
There’s a ton more to talk about the changing tech in the data arena. But that’s the subject of a future column (Stay tuned!).
Add a Paywall to Your Mix
If your website offers free content, you’re likely feeling the pain of declining ad revenues. The reality is that it’s becoming more difficult to deliver quality content without at least having some of that content (if not all) sitting behind a paywall.
There is no doubt that the move to paid content is hotter than ever in the media space. As technologists, we need to adapt our stack to support this move.
So what do we have to do? First, you need to have a paywall in your arsenal that can be leveraged to implement paid content models. But don’t just stop with a hard paywall. Consider implementing a paywall in your stack that supports metering so you can ultimately migrate to a subscription or membership model over time.
Be on the Lookout for Voice, AI
PubExec’s guide to the Top Technologies Publishers will Buy in 2018 clearly points to the trends list above. But it also shows some emerging technologies that we need to keep an eye on. Three of the big ones are machine learning, artificial intelligence, and integration with voice-assisted devices (aka Alexa and Hello Google).
AI is clearly seen as a way to create more content through increasingly leaner content team. Voice, on the other hand, is seen as a logical channel extension for media brands.
The truth is that AI and voice will change the tech stack. The question is how. Unfortunately, we don’t have the answers to that question yet. But, it’s important for media brands to take some money and dabble here so they can quickly adapt their tech stack when the need for AI and voice kicks into high gear.
Related story: The Top Technologies Publishers Will Buy in 2018
Rob Keenan is the President of Keenan Media, LLC, a consultancy firm providing digital, content, marketing, and audience support to the media sector. Rob has worked in the BtoB media sector for 20 years, most recently at the VP of Online Media for Edgell Communications. You can contact Rob at firstname.lastname@example.org.You can also follow him on twitter @robkeenan11 or connect with him on LinkedIn.