Media executives who focus on data from Politico, The Economist, and Singapore Press Holdings took the INMA stage for day two of the conference’s presentations to speak about the importance of Big Data for media companies.
“I think a lot about our audience and how to grow it,” said Kate Day, editorial director/growth. Utilising data is a way to accomplish that growth, but it is challenging to incorporate data in a newsroom, she said.
Particularly within a news context, data is difficult, she explained. “There are so many variables that determine why one story flies and another story flops.”
The key to using data is to ask the right questions to make it actionable, Day said:
What problem am I trying to solve?
How can I tell if my solution is working?
What would I like to know about my audience to do my job better?
By approaching analytics teams with these types of questions, journalists are much more likely to get information that is actionable, Day said. This data can be used to not only grow the audience, but also to make sure that the content and product works for them and to tell stories effectively.
“It’s been an extraordinary year full of these enormous stories that we’ve been compelled to tell very well,” she said.
Day also explained how her company used data to track customers’ behaviour to determine when to send them emails to reach them: “We’re trying to build a community and then serve that community. And anything that helps us understand that community is invaluable to us.”
Anthony Tan, executive vice president/Chinese media at Singapore Press Holdings, faced a similar task when trying to grow the audience of Singapore Press Holdings.His company took an unconventional approach and challenged itself to grow its print audience, he explained.
“The truth is that many of us were print organisations first,” he said. “Even as digital grows, print is still an important part of our business.”
To gain more print subscribers, Tan’s company used data to map out Singapore and examine subscription penetration factoring in the gender, age, income, area, tenure, and housing type of the population.
The company used the data they gathered to develop business plans, develop local subscriptions and drive resource allocation.
Stephane Pére, chief data officer at The Economist concluded the data panel and began by listing the three main purposes of using data: to understand customers, reach them, and engage them.
For publishers, using data is a way to identify potential subscribers, one of the two main ways to gain revenue, he explained. SPH uses data each month to examine all the information it has on its subscribers to best segment and target its audience.
“We don’t have one audience as publishers,” said Pére. “We have different audiences for our different platforms. You publishers must think about leveraging all the touchpoints with your audiences.”