Editor’s note: This is one of 17 case studies featured in INMA’s strategic report “Making Big Data Smarter For Media Companies,” released in December.   

Sweden’s Aftonbladet, mostly owned by Schibsted Media Group, with a 9% stake belonging to the Swedish Trade Union Confederation, has an ambitious set of aspirations for the company’s use of consumer data. 

Andreas Aspegren, online manager for Aftonbladet, says that “the overarching goal is to provide our visitors with a great user experience, with high relevance and discoverability on every visit/touchpoint.”

That philosophy embraces all elements of consumers’ online experience including:

  •  Paid and free content.

  • Functionality.

  • Premium services.

  • Advertisements.

  • Other interactions, including e-mail, text or SMS messaging, and push notifications.

“To the extent possible, we aim to create an actionable user profile for every visitor, traceable through all systems, while preserving the integrity of the user,” Aspegren says.

Aftonbladet’s central strategy is to maximise the lifetime value of users by building a large registered user base that is active and engaged on as many platforms as possible, including computers and both Internet and freestanding applications on mobile devices. 

“Visitors are encouraged to register to get access to functionality, such as notifications on breaking news, the ability to follow journalists, a higher degree of personalisation, as well as direct incentives such as competitions,” Aspegren says. 

Since 2011, Aftonbladet has greatly reduced its churn rate by using its customer relationship management (CRM) to leverage the customer base for up- and cross-selling campaigns and to build loyalty through engaging editorial and commercial campaigns. That also increases the average revenue per user.

“Better targeted, more relevant content is key, and we base the matching on declared interests as well as log-in behaviour,” Aspegren says.

Using a structured approach to conversion optimisation, beginning in 2013, has driven up the conversion rate and increased the customer base. The company monitors sales funnels and campaigns closely and adjusts them as necessary. 

To help analyse behavioural data it has collected over time, the company has brought in several vendors. Currently, Aftonbladet uses Adobe SiteCatalyst and Mixpanel as the built-in analytics tools for its main Web tracking suites, Aspegren says.

It uses Schibsted’s purpose-built solution for analytics and segmentation across data sources — Optimizely for A/B testing and conversion optimisation and SAP BusinessObjects for segmentation based on log-in and subscription data. 

Aspegren warned that off-the-shelf solutions are rarely as simple as they claim. “For more complex analytics, and in order to actually act on insights, it is necessary to plan ahead and make necessary integrations, as well as do the homework and make a structured data model,” he says. 

Making it appealing for consumers to participate in data collection efforts isn’t always easy. Aspegren has found that “considerable development efforts” are necessary when devising interfaces that ask users to indicate areas of interest or configure preferences.

Another challenge is finding ways to create user experiences that gather relevant social data without being intrusive and calculating how to act on social data.

Having all that personal information is a big responsibility, and Aftonbladet takes seriously concerns about data privacy. So far, few customers have come to the company directly with their concerns.

Says Aspegren: “We aim to be as transparent as possible with what data we collect and for what purposes, and make up-to-date privacy policies easily available. Any visitor that does not wish to be tracked can opt-out by following instructions provided.” 

Over time, Aspegren expects to: 

  1. Increase data collection.

  2. Leverage the acquired knowledge of users across various platforms and products.

  3. Further personalise the user experience.

  4. Gain insights gathered from data and use them more broadly to develop new products for consumers.