At the end of content and technology rainbow, data is the pot of gold. Business.com's CEO shares how we look at data to tailor experience.
Programmatic. First party data. Retargeting. Viewability.
To say there are quite a few things to consider as digital publishers is an understatement. At the end of the content and technology rainbow, data is the pot of gold.
Our CEO, Tony Uphoff, spoke at the ABM & Information Industry Summit today alongside John Felahi, Chief Strategy Officer for Content Analyst Company, in their session “How Automation and Algorithms Can Make or Break Content and Advertising-Driven Businesses.”
As Uphoff explained, data now informs all aspects of media, on and offline. At Business.com, we view every site interaction as valuable pieces of data that guide our audience and advertiser experience and ongoing product development.
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By tapping audience and advertiser data, online publishers like Business.com can better tailor the experience to the readers and inform media buying. When paired with personalization algorithms and automation, the experience for both the reader and the advertiser is optimized to the highest level of performance.
Business.com harnesses the power of data & algorithms to help executives acquire the knowledge, products and services they need to run their businesses and careers. In his below presentation at #ABMIIS15, Uphoff outlines the tools we use, the data we analyze and how we measure success.
Transcript from Tony Uphoff's ABM & Information Industry Summit Session
Slide 1: Data and Algorithms. Wow. When I started my career in business media these were certainly not terms we used. Today, they are becoming part of the B2B media and marketing lexicon. I’d like to share our journey with data and algorithms in the hope that it will resonate with your experience and/or give you a frame of reference on how the use of these technologies is becoming one of the most powerful forces in our industry.
Slide 2: I’ve been in the business media and marketing industry for over 20 years and have been involved in digital media since it’s inception. Three to four years ago I began to see a new market transition emerging in digital media, and with it, a whole new jargon and ecosystem. In short, advertising technology and marketing automation were disrupting how marketers viewed, bought and measured digital media.
Slide 3: To suggest that this market transition ushered in a fast-growing, complex ecosystem would be a dramatic understatement. Today there are thousands of ad tech and marketing providers in the market with new ones entering every day. The business market today has a dizzying array of tech choices that in some cases have superseded digital media choices. At Business.com, we understood this market transition, perhaps at a unique level, and set about harnessing these new technologies.
Slide 4: To start, we decided that regardless of the question on which technology, data would be the answer. We don’t just believe in data, we have set the entire foundation of our business on it.
Slide 5: Let’s start with what we mean when we use the term data, and how we use it to enhance our audience and advertiser experience and performance. We built our own DMP (Data Management Platform) to allow us to track every visit and every interaction on Business.com. We built “Finch” our proprietary DMP on a Mongo Database and use it to tailor the audience experience. We also feed this data into a DSP (Demand Side Platform) by Krux, that provides us the ability to accelerate and expand targeted audiences and inform media buying.
Slide 6: We then harness this ongoing data by setting up a series of algorithms that help run our business. Algorithms primarily serve two functions at Business.com; fueling our content strategy to provide increasing levels of personalized and tailored content and by providing us an advanced ability to serve contextual and intention-based advertising. Net/Net, we are utilizing these technologies to create a high quality experience for our audiences that results in Business.com becoming a daily habit and trusted resource for business executives and to deliver targeted, contextual advertising that performs beyond marketers expectations.
Slide 7: We built these data gathering, analytics and algorithmic capabilities because we believe they are essential in today’s digital media market. We see 3 viable business models in digital media: 1.) Internet Content and Digital Media 2.) Marketing Services 3.) Advertising Technology. While we have components of all 3 in our business model, we are primarily focused on Internet Content and Digital Media.
Slide 8: To be successful in Internet Content and Digital Media we believe there are 4 essential pillars to success: 1.) High Discoverability, SEO, Social and eMail 2.) Brand Trust with both audiences and marketers 3.) Have more 1st Party Data Than Anyone and 4.) Scalable Content Creation. We use data and algorithms to accomplish all 4 of these goals.
Slide 9: Simply put; we harness the power of data & algorithms to help executives acquire the knowledge, products and services they need to run and grow their businesses and careers.
Slide 10: The use of data and algorithms has also taken us way beyond casual or simple survey-based sampling of our audiences, to the ability to understand executives interests and intentions bases on their ongoing behaviors.
Slide 11: Data has fueled a series of shifts in our business and how we engage our audience. Business executives are less interested in knowing about something and more interested in knowing how to do something. Less interested in learning from journalists and more interested in learning from practitioners. Less interested in headlines and more interested in trend-lines that they can act on to benefit their businesses and career. Data has also informed our strategic shift from linking to sharing.
Slide 12: We believe that while we compete with a range of brands for advertising dollars, the ultimate competition is for the time and attention of the audience. If we can use data and algorithms to crete a daily destination for our audience of business executives in growing companies, we are then in the best position to successfully serve our advertisers.
Slide 13: Data & algorithms now inform every stage of our content development cycle, from ideation to planning, production, distribution, tracking and auditing.
Slide 14: They have also enabled our ability to deliver personalized content and advertising based on the ongoing behavior and intentions of our audience.
Slide 15: We are also able to leverage data to deliver an equally personalized and contextual experience on our site and in our email products.
Slide 16: We spend a fair amount of time and effort building and sourcing technology that will continue to enhance our audience and advertisers experience. Here is a snapshot of what our tech stack looks like today. We believe in technology that serves our mission and in remaining agile enough to integrate in new or swap out existing technology if we feel it will create a better experience.
Slide 17: We have learned a few things along the way. One of the most powerful lessons, is that technological change proceeds cultural change. No mater how much planning you’ve done, new technology, even one you might deem minor in impact, can often times cause cultural and organizational challenges.
Slide 18: While we are certainly data geeks, we’ve also learned that data and algorithms don’t replace editorial judgement. They help inform it. Data can give a false sense of direction. More data isn’t always better.
Slide 19: Data and algorithms are clearly creating the potential for far more engaging advertising experiences for audiences. Behavioral targeting can also turn audiences off as they data can fuel interruption-based and out of context advertising via retargeting programmatically. Contextual, native advertising is optimal but there may be trade offs in reach and scale.
Slide 20: Here are a few lessons learned: 1.) Crawl, walk, run. Don’t go all in at once. 2.) Build, buy, partner and don’t be afraid to switch where necessary. 3.) Set priorities around your audiences and 4.) Iterate and innovate.
Slide 21: We made the decision that rather than retrofit a legacy business we would build a new platform and site from the ground up. This took us longer but was the right decision. As a guide here is how we went about it. We set a clear strategy built around serving our target audience of executives in growth companies and providing them with a daily destination that gives them the knowledge, products and services they need to run and grow their businesses and careers. We then outlined the data we felt was essential to gather, analyze and act on to best serve our audience and advertisers. We then built algorithms to run our business and realigned the workflow of our company, from content to design, engineering, ad operations, performance marketing and sales and then built and selected the platforms that best scale our business.
Slide 22: We took these steps with Business.com as we strongly believe that our business is increasingly about establishing and keeping our brand promise with audiences and marketers in an attention-based economy.