There seems to be, at times, a polarisation in the publisher business. This won’t surprise many people, most businesses have silos and cultural/political barriers. In other verticals, there are countless opinions on how the CMOs and the CIOs need to find more collaborative ways of working together. The CMO needs to have a greater appreciation of the science of data and the evolving technology landscape, but this theme is not getting the same amount of column inches when it comes to the other end of the spectrum, publishers.
Roles of Analysts Versus Sales
‘New’ publishers most likely don’t face this issue as much as traditional publishers, which were built as digitally native organisations. Digital or traditional, most publishers have managed to catch up and instil data-led expertise. This, however, is the role of the analyst, usually a business analyst. They operate in a similar way to how any business analyst would in any organisation. They understand patterns that drive business. In the publisher world, they leverage (via onsite analytics) data around traffic patterns: how did the user arrive? What did they do in session? Are they a new or returning visitor? What was the dwell time/engagement with specific pieces of content? How did they exit? Depending on the size of the publisher, these analysts will also be responsible for understanding yield and pricing patterns. Which ads, on which pages, for which users correlate to revenue and yield?
Let’s now take a look at the ‘typical’ (deliberately generalising here) salesperson at a publisher. Depending on the type of entity, they will have a deep knowledge of the genre in which that publication operates. They can list off a hundred reasons why the publisher is a good brand fit for an advertiser. They understand how to communicate to an audience in the environment of that publisher. However, how much of this understanding is cultural, legacy knowledge, versus more relevant, data-driven insights? It is not necessarily important for the salesperson to sell the understanding of their audience with regards to how they arrive at the site or understanding the intent of that user; we’re talking a very granular level of knowledge here.
Audiences are typically sold on the basis of panel-based surveys, assembled ‘pen portraits’ of fictional people named John, or Susan, who likes to do ‘x’ on the weekend, and aspire to own ‘y’ brand of car in five years. Traditionally, this type of audience understanding was enough. It aligned with how agencies were planning and segmenting audiences for their clients.
Times have changed
This is not enough anymore. Data is now flowing in and out of organisations with increasing speed and frequency. Publishers are no different. It is time that publishers cultivated and encouraged greater interaction around sales and analyst teams. It is time to really install a data-driven culture. Even for publishers perceived as premium, and suitable for brand budget, they need to have a data-driven culture. Brand marketing is becoming increasingly data-driven. Social media, which at times gets a bad rap for being unaccountable and fluffy, has led to *some* of the boom around big data practices (specifically, the ability to handle vast amounts of unstructured data). So, a pitch to a brand from a salesperson who is reliant on legacy assumptive behaviours is becoming increasingly irrelevant.
Engage the analysts in your organisation; learn how to fuse different sets, first-party and third-party. This is not discounting the value of surveys, which answer questions more easily than advanced data-mining techniques can, but it should be supplemented. Sales teams MUST learn more from their analyst. Analysts NEED to make information easier to represent, package and sell.
Of course platforms, such as DMPs, sought to address this, but how many publishers have really made full use of this technology? The next evolution for publishers is surely having this baked into their sales and monetisation platforms. Companies like PubMatic and other players on the sell-side are addressing this exact challenge. The data being collected and driven needs to be in the hands of everyone.
If publishers want to remain relevant, their sales forces need to look more closely at their analyst teams. Better yet, buddy the two up together. Not only would this give a greater appreciation of understanding data around the entire organisation, it would equip and armour salespeople with more scientific understanding of their audience, which in turn drives more opportunity to deliver solutions that they know will resonate with their audience, increasing ad-matching relevancy and, ultimately, bottom-line effectiveness for all parties.
It is time publishers parked traditional methods of audience understanding and look to their data to tell them precisely who they are.ExchangeWire