We all know there is more data available than ever. No need to repeat the exponential growth of data: from penta- to zeta- into yottabites, which seems to be the latest geek term on it.

Historically, publishers were always in the forefront of collecting data, thanks to the penetration of their newspapers and their frequent contact with readers.

But since the evolution from print to digital and mobile — and thus the growing interactivity with large audiences — publishers are more than ever very well placed to collect lots of information about consumers, their habits, their needs, and their wants.

The catch-all term for it is “Big Data,” where “big” stands for an interminable volume of data, a limitless velocity of the (real-time) data-streams, and an endless variety of consumer information. Not only socially desirable “declared behaviour,” like in the old days, but also daily proven behaviour and interests that publishers can derive from reading and buying habits.

But where exactly is the potential behind big data for publishers? And how do we unlock it?

Data is said to be the new oil. This is certainly true for companies that provide other companies with specialised data solutions. It’s like the Gold Rush, when those who provided tools to dig the gold were the ones who earned money in the first place.

It seems also to be true for companies such as Google and Facebook and Apple, the new technology driven kids on the block, which have less system legacies and business models mainly based on “data.” 

But where is the added value for publishers? Where is the added value for the consumer and advertiser?

Regarding data, consumer trust is a critical factor. Publishers with established and reliable brands are said to have a very trusted relationship with consumers. In the crowded consumer data arena, trust can be a competitive advantage for publishers that remain transparent to consumers to gain additional trust and stay privacy proof. 

On the contrary, most publishers struggle to leverage these data into insights and action. They are often drowning in data, but not capitalising on it.

Data is coming in from different and a growing number of sources and consumer touch points. The data often remains locked within multiple channels and in different functional and application silos through the company.

This makes it difficult for publishers to build a 360-degree consumer view and causes a shortage of deep insight and foresight that can be used for business advantage.

But once that integral and integrated 360-degree view on a single consumer is established, the leverage of Big Data can benefit all different publishing domains: editorial, audience marketing, advertising, and line extensions:

  • Editorial information can be targeted across devices and channels.

  • Audience marketing can improve segmentation and relevancy, not only based upon operational subscriber data, but also based upon the individual reading habits and interests.

  • Big Data should also strengthen advertising solutions, not only based upon anonymous cookies, but also upon personal data to improve advertisers’ strategies — both in their acquisition and retention plans, as well as in their one-to-many and one-to-one modus.

Yes, it is lots of work to do for publishers to make their data support potential uplifts in all these domains. But publishers must organise themselves and use (big) data to bring more relevancy, to strive for better audience engagement, to deliver more value to advertising clients, and to understand how it impacts processes and development.