Creating a single view of the customer — or a 360-degree view or whatever you want to call the view of your customer relationship — isn’t an option any more. Creating this single representation for each of your customers, their activities, and their non-activities must to be thought of as a basic functional requirement of your marketing and content presentation decision-making machinery. Period.

This single view is a required element for both your print and digital strategies. You can’t get away with relying on brand equity any longer. The unique privilege of 100+ years of publishing in your community doesn’t translate to a guaranteed audience.

In the digital era, geographic barriers don’t exist and print isn’t a business’s first choice for a marketing budget plan.

Media companies can and should take a complete look at customers using data.
Media companies can and should take a complete look at customers using data.

With no extra effort, a consumer can read the best journalism in the world, whether it originates in Washington, D.C., London, New Delhi, Buenos Aires, or Sydney.

How do you win when the world is so quick to navigate?

Success in the new era of media is driven by a dual set of relevance.

The first category of relevance is gaining readership. This is done through fully embracing a high standard of journalistic content — one people find worth paying for and returning to.

The second relevance category is in the delivery of an audience that advertisers find desirable. When both are done right, the result is seen in time on-site for returning (and paying) customers and advertisers.

Long-term success is not in the occasional link on Drudge that quadruples you pageviews for a quick injection of cash. Success is when you can thrive in the long run by continually providing readers with quality, relevant content they are willing to pay for and return to often.

Understanding your customers and their interests is a key element in building to the long-run winning solution. Is it easy to build the insights to drive success in the long-run game? No. But it is doable.

The data-driven marketing missionaries and evangelists been shouting this message for years with some success.

Some of the missionaries are such firm believers in the advantage data insights provide, they have built companies around the services and technologies to help publishers arrive at a single view and leverage the view with lifecycle management services. Unfortunately, though, the universal nods of agreement when their messages are delivered are met with less-than-stellar success in their actual implementation.

From my perspective, the time to do this has long since passed the nice-to-have phase and is fast approaching a now-or-never status. It is now! Media companies need to get on board before the tipping point as it is fast approaching a moment where it will be too late.

The disrupters in the new era of media build the universal view into their companies’ DNA and technology. Old-school media has the baggage of 40 years of software, processes, and excuses to overcome. Quit complaining and fix it!

The single view of the customer is the actionable layer of a data strategy (or, better yet, a total company strategy) to understand who it is you reach — not only who but how, how often, and what you touch them with. Once all of the internal systems are connected together, then bring in supplemental information so you expand your knowledge beyond an internal view.

It is not easy to build the connections needed to consolidate customer transactions into a single view. One hurdle is that the links in the physical world (addresses) and acoustic world (phone numbers) are much easier to connect than those of the digital world. There isn’t a completely unique and universal data element in the cyber world. Vendors create their own and try to get access to these values in a downloadable format.

The cyber world wants you to analyse within each vendor’s own “universe.” One reason is they collect a lot of data, and I mean a lot of data — something like 800 rows of data from a single mouse click for some of them!

So analysing what happened with each e-mail sent to former subscribers is easy within the e-mail delivery tool (ESP), but try connecting the e-mail behaviour to your demographics outside of the ESP’s analysis tool. It can be done but it takes some careful thought. Or, perhaps your ESP has an API that lets you offload data.

While this is complex, you must figure it out and quickly! If you can’t figure it out, hire a reputable firm — preferably one that understands media.

When all sources are connected — which, again, isn’t easy — then the data scientist (or, if you don’t have one, a very good analyst or a third-party research firm) can help you move into the insights that can be gleaned from the information. In other words, start transforming the information to knowledge, and knowledge to wisdom, and wisdom to prescriptive- and recommendation-based actions.

Use the technology to A/B test in the digital content delivery space. Even A/B test across devices — people with tablets behave differently than those using smartphones. Test everything from headlines to pictures.

Then have the courage to adjust. You may find your traditional 6 a.m. print delivery time might have to be earlier — and earlier may mean rethinking the print/digital or digital/print paradigm.

You may find your print and digital audiences are very different audiences, with minimal overlapping customers. 

You may find that your e-edition (or print replica) users don’t care about “clicking” into a story to read it in a non-print-paper format. You may find that they do click in.

You may find repeat visitor patterns. You may find different weekday and weekend patterns. You may find your weekend print folks are heavy digital users Monday through Thursday.

There is probably a list of 30 things off the top of the head worth looking into, and you’ll need to adjust your strategy to strengthen your position in your physical and digital communities.

Now, get out there and do something bold!