NYT, Nikkei, Independent UK succeed with first-party data strategies

By Paula Felps

INMA

Nashville, Tennessee, USA

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By Michelle Palmer Jones

INMA

Nashville, Tennessee, United States

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By Chandler Wieberg

INMA

Austin, Texas, United States

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The No. 1 priority of news media publishers is turning unknown audiences into known audiences, Mark Zohar, COO and president of Viafoura told attendees at the INMA Product and Data for Media Summit on Tuesday.

“I think as a whole, the industry is moving from quantity to quality and from volume to value, he said. The scale may not be kind of a net sum between what happened with third-party and first-party. But if you create those segments … you can get a higher premium for that user seggment because its known, identified by interests, it can be targeted well, and its higher resolution data than your traditional third-party data.”

The New York Times focuses on innovative data ad products

Questionable accuracy and lack of transparency of third-party data is driving the strategy behind innovative data and products at The New York Times.

Director of Data Ad Products Nick Eckhart said the ambitious goal of developing solutions that can fully replace third-party data is what brought him to The New York Times three years ago. His focus is to ethically use data to better understand content and audience for the purpose of meeting advertiser goals.

“At the end of Q1, we stopped using third-party data in all our direct deals,” Eckhart said. “That was a huge milestone and to my knowledge, we’re one of the only and first publishers to do that.”

Nick Eckhart, director of data ad products at The New York Times, explained the opportunities of first-party data as he sees them.
Nick Eckhart, director of data ad products at The New York Times, explained the opportunities of first-party data as he sees them.

Consumers are expecting privacy and third-party cookies are slowly being blocked by major search engines. The New York Times saw an opportunity to differentiate what was being offered to advertisers.

The three key areas where they focused on building products in are:

  1. Contextual products: Targets users based on page context.

  2. Behavioural products: Groups users into segments like demos, age, interest.

  3. Insights products: Match what is known about the user, content, products, and ads to back up targeting recommendations.

The Times then built contextual and insights tools.

Eckhart wasn’t sure they would be able to get enough people to voluntarily provide their personal information, allowing the team to collect enough data to build their own products — or if that information would translate into reliable models. To their surprise, many people filled out the e-mail survey they sent out.

They have 75,000 responses so far and continue to collect them.

“We were able to validate that we would use that data to build look-alike models that are on par or better than the third-party segments we had been selling,” Eckhart said.

Independent Digital News and Media targets 2 million new registered users

“Anonymous to known” is the strategy Independent took after moving from third-party cookies to generate user growth and revenue. “We set ourselves with the ambitious target of acquiring an additional two million sign-ups between April 2021 and March 2022,” said Ross Wilmot, head of consumer marketing at Independent Digital News and Media.

Ross Wilmot, head of consumer marketing at Independent Digital News and Media, explained the company's path to an additional 2 million sign-ins in one year.
Ross Wilmot, head of consumer marketing at Independent Digital News and Media, explained the company's path to an additional 2 million sign-ins in one year.

Independent focused on five key areas to achieve the target, Wilmot said:

  1. “Firstly, we wanted to enhance our registration proposition. There has to be a clear value exchange in order for it to be worth the readers time.”
  2. “Increase awareness and exposure to our registration proposition by maximising sign-up opportunities both on site and off platform.” This included additions such as new onsite prompts, paid media campaigns to promote new registrations, and removing e-mail only newsletter sign-ups, which allowed the team to acquire more data from the user.
  3. “We aligned propositions into audience segments based on where they are in the customer journey and the proprietary to convert,” meant to ensure the sign-up opportunities are implemented to the targeted audience. 
  4. “Focus on optimising conversion through introducing a culture of continuous test-and-learn with the focus being on incremental improvements across the entire funnel.”
  5. Have all departments working together, editorial,  marketing, data and product teams that “share a collective responsibility for delivering the strategy.”

Nikkei ID builds Atlas platform to gather data

While most news media companies offer two tiers of digital usage — paid subscriptions and registered users with limited free access — Nikkei also offers the Nikkei ID Membership. Users have a single sign-on to access an entire suite of services from Nikkei partners.

Those services include events, job matching services, magazines, healthcare, education, and a financial database. It’s a tremendous benefit to members, and it also is a good fit for the service providers, who are able to build an audience simply by partnering with Nikkei, said Taihei Shigemore, deputy general manager/digital transformation office, at Nikkei. 

To be able to provide Nikkei ID, the company built its own data platform called Atlas.

Taihei Shigemore, deputy general manager/digital transformation office, at gave details on the company's Nikkei ID offering.
Taihei Shigemore, deputy general manager/digital transformation office, at gave details on the company's Nikkei ID offering.

“We needed a platform to deal with large amounts of data in real time, so we built it from scratch,” Shigemore said. Atlas provides real-time, in-house data analysis, as well as tools that aid in product improvement, visualisation of KPIs, and improved communication with customers.

When using those analytics, Nikkei is guided by an engagements score, FV, which he said is its most important KPI and has become its North Star: “We can calculate the frequency of [users’] visits and the volume of the articles they read because of the data platform. And we use that to support every aspect of our decision making.”

Moving forward, Shigemori said the company will use data analytics to deepen the company’s understanding of individual business customers: “Most services have been offered in disparate ways and the user experience has not been connected. Now that first-party data has become so important, we have to treat our customer data in more consistent ways and make our ecosystem fit our customers’ needs. The important thing is to build a healthy ecosystem between Nikkei ID users and service providers.”

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