Future of lists is in audience data

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Business media companies are increasingly consolidating their audience databases and gathering information on individuals' activities across every platform—print, email, Web, subscriptions, events. In the not-too-distant future, b-to-b marketers who rent lists will reap benefits from these audience development projects, such as more up-to-date contact information and list selections based on behavior. Instead of a list of people with buying authority in a given market, for example, marketers would be able to choose lists of people who have consumed content on a topic or product category relevant to their campaign. Northstar Travel Media has a centralized audience database, but it wasn't built for the data mining the company currently wants to perform, said Tom Cintorino, exec VP-digital media. “We're now in the middle of phase two, where we will be able to bring together the audience data we have across all our brands and platforms.” Cintorino said he expects it to be completed by midyear. Not only will the database provide more targeted, segmented lists but it will also let Northstar charge higher rates for renting its lists. “This will allow us to have a tiered pricing model based on the value of the customer record,” Cintorino said. For example, the upgraded system will identify travel agents or businesspeople with an interest in a particular destination based on their on- and offline activities. People who sought information on a specific geographic area would likely be strong prospects for a marketer interested in that area and, therefore, be worth more to a list renter, he said. George Fox, president of Advantage Business Media, said the systems that enable the company to analyze the data it has been collecting on audience behavior are just coming online. “We will be able to see what people do across all the platforms we have—email blasts, newsletters, websites, anything they download, any commenting they do,” he said. “We'll be able to track all of that back to the individual profile.” “Our plan is to put together buckets of people who have very unique needs around content,” Fox said. One way to monetize that would be through list or database rental, but there are multiple possible options. “We can create special content pieces, such as research or microsites, that we could sell to groups of advertisers at premium rates or we could charge the users directly,” he added. John Rockwell, who joined Sandow Media as VP-digital audience marketing in October, said of the company: “We have great magazines and websites, and we're adding tablet apps and other new distribution channels. We're currently setting up foundational systems to tie all the data together. That will help us to better understand our customers and to monetize them in new ways.” As Sandow collects, aggregates and analyzes more audience data, though, Rockwell is not sure list rental will be the most lucrative way to monetize that additional intelligence. “We want to maintain the list-rental revenue stream, but we're not going to apply all that firepower to list rental,” he said. “We're building out a customer relationship management system, and we want to see how lead scoring would work for Sandow. We're also building e-commerce capabilities.” Nevertheless, Rockwell said, even the most traditional marketing techniques have their place within a marketer's portfolio. “We get fairly good traction with the traditional things we do. [For example,] we do an amazing business sending out emails for our advertising clients on top of our [third-party] list rental business,” he said. Summit Business Media is working on making its database more comprehensive. “The current focus of my attention is aggregating the audience databases of Summit's media brands, but Summit also has a large data business as well,” said Peter Westerman, chief audience officer at the company. “Our vision is eventually to combine the branded media assets with the assets we have in our data products division.” Between the media and data products divisions, Westerman estimated that he will be consolidating 20 to 30 individual databases over the coming months. One opportunity Westerman has identified is expansion of the company's audience by gathering more registered users from Summit's media websites. “We have registration-based sites that are driving net new audience customers; but, over time, we will be developing ways to secure new opt-in email addresses from more of the sites,” he said. Summit's list rental business will benefit when its data is aggregated “because we'll be able to offer deeper segmentation of our audiences,” Westerman said. “We'll also have greater insight into activities going on at [audience] companies because we'll be able to aggregate the behaviors of multiple people working for those companies.” Like Rockwell, Westerman observed that improving rental lists is not the biggest opportunity that will arise from the consolidated database. “We're looking to develop new products, such as subscription data products, and to drive lead generation and custom media,” he said. About two years ago, UBM Electronics completed the consolidation of more than a dozen databases within the EE Times Group into one master audience database; then, after UBM acquired Canon Communications in October 2010, data from the former Canon electronics brands were also melded into UBM's database. With those, along with subsequent net audience growth, UBM Electronics now maintains 2.26 million unique records. “We set up our databases with a single customer view,” said Amandeep Sandhu, director-audience engagement and analytics. “Every online and offline interaction is now associated with the user.” Sandhu is integrating that audience data with the customer relationship management and financial systems. This project “will enable us to predict the actions that a user will take next,” he said. Although predictive analytics will not be used for rental lists until “we can get to a high level of confidence in predictive analysis, we sincerely believe that this information can then be transferred for list rental purposes in the future,” he added.
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