30 November 2022 |

Another damn data article…but without the bullshit

By Adam Ryan

“Data Is the New Oil of the Digital Economy” – Wired, 2007 

“The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data” – The Economist, 2017

“​​Data Is The New Oil — And That’s A Good Thing” – Forbes, 2019 

Almost every year, there seems to be another article about how data is the most valuable resource to date. And, yes, how it’s the new oil. 

All those articles sound like they used an AI tool to write them. The words are there, the phrases are there, the sentences are there – but they mean nothing. They’re mostly full of bullshi…I mean buzzwords. 

For media operators like myself, data articles need two things: how data can actually make money and how to really make that happen. 

This article will answer both of those and cut through the bullshit. 

Let’s first settle up the terminology

0-party data: Your audience voluntarily gives you information via polls and questionnaires. Like this example from Morning Brew. They ask these questions after you subscribe to their newsletter.

1st party data: You directly collect data and store your audience data based on their behavior. This could include email opens, login information, content search, subscription information, and more. 

3rd party data: Data is collected from outside sources and integrated via API or connection into your CRM. An example would be integrating LinkedIn data into your CRM. 

The way you can monetize with data

0-party data allows great monetization opportunities. Here are 3 good examples: 

  • Campaign performance and renewals
    • When I interviewed the COO of Punchbowl News, Rachel Schindler, I asked her how the company could command $10M in revenue in its first 12 months as a business. Her answer was quite simple. Insight into who is engaging with the content in the audience. 

Punchbowl has some of the most powerful DC insiders among their audience. Lobbyists and other clients of Punchbowl want to know their message is getting in front of the right person at the right time. 

Punchbowl created a data strategy that allowed them to share information, on an aggregate level, to their advertising clients on who was engaging. 

As budgets get tighter and campaign performance is under more scrutiny, the more data you have on who engaged with a campaign the more success you can have at winning ad budgets with your existing clients. 

Here is an example slide you could use: 

  • Lead generation & other products
    • Industry Dive recently sold for more than $500M to Informa. It was a massive win for the bootstrapped media company. 

When Sean was asked why the deal made sense, this was his answer: 

Informa realized Sean and the team had been using data to have one of the most effective lead generation programs in the industry. They were capturing intent data across 0, 1st, and 3rd party to get gated content in front of the right buyers.

This allowed ID to have incredibly efficient marketing of their lead programs. 

It also showed the opportunity to Informa, primarily an events business, that they could use this same tactic to sell millions of dollars of tickets. 

Industry Dive’s cohesive data strategy allowed them to get to more than $100M in revenue but also helped them build a moat that created true enterprise value. 

  • Product development 
    • Data can be overwhelming. As Mario Gabriele, the Founder of The Generalist, recently said. It’s hard to digest. 

When trying to improve your content, format, or introduce new products you want feedback from the audience. You want to include them in the process to ensure you can reach product-market fit faster.

But 1:1 conversations just don’t cut it at scale.

At Workweek, we started a new process. We are paying attention to types of content categories. For example, with The Wolf of Franchises he writes about various franchises. From home services like lawn companies to restaurants to daycare centers. 

If we try to ask our audience what they’re most interested in, we get a bunch of different answers. Everyone wants us to do everything.

Using a data strategy, we quickly realized food and beverage was the most engaged content. Couple that data with audience data, and we have a clear picture of an area that we can develop products for. Like this event we created for food and beverage franchisors. 

Useful data can drive decision-making on large product strategies: you just have to have it in a way that isn’t overwhelming. 

The problem you don’t know you have

As great as data is for these purposes, there’s a big problem that you probably aren’t realizing. 

Not all data is created equal, and specific data types may only show you a fraction of your audience’s behavior.

Let’s look at The Wolf of Franchise data. We have more than 25,000 newsletter subscribers. Only 119 have told us they care about Real Estate franchises.

On average, less than 10% of your audience (if you’re lucky) will give you granular 0-party data.

So what about the other 90%?

The reality is those extra ways to monetize with data are great, but they’d be a hell of a lot stronger if you could fill the entire picture. 

The largest data issue you need to solve after recognizing the monetizations paths is capturing all of your audience’s data, not just a fraction. 

How do you do this?

There are quite a few paths to try to figure this problem out with 3rd party services. You can try to piecemeal together various APIs and connections or have your engineering attempt to build a pixel product. 

These work, but they require a huge amount of overhead and capital to get off the ground.

Workweek is using Bombora to help paint the larger picture and maximize the value of our data. 

The reason we chose Bombora

Co-ops have existed for a long time. One of the most well-known co-ops is the FICO credit score. 

Consumers pull their own FICO credit score to understand their credit for their own purchases. Lenders use FICO to understand consumers’ credit score and to be able to gauge consumer trends as a whole. FICO charges lenders to pull this information. 

FICO has created the most trusted co-op in lending.

Bombora is doing this for the B2B media and marketing industry. 

Instead of consumers pulling their credit reports, Bombora allows publishers to have unique insights and a complete view of their audience data. 

What has this co-op enabled?

It’s created an accessible way for publishers to sync data on their audience and see what they’re viewing across the internet — not just on your website. It’s unlike any other Intent data provider on the market. Collectively, their co-op now has Bloomberg, Workweek, and more of the most highly-trafficked publishers across the B2B internet. 

Why do I love it so much?

Workweek implemented this, giving us access and insights into who ALL of our audience is and what intent they have for purchasing. 

This data allows us more effective renewals, lead generation, and product promotion. All for no large investment or engineering support. 

The future of data with media companies

The reality is that data in many ways is like oil. It needs refinement and a true use case to make it valuable. 

But it’s not as complex as drilling oil. Or it shouldn’t be.

Media publishers need to take 3 actions:

  • Identify the way data can help with your current customers 
  • Work with a company like Bombora to create a cohesive data strategy with both 0, 1st, and 3rd party data
  • Decide what data you want to incorporate into your own platform like a CRM / CDP, and what you can simply log in and share

Why do I care so much about this?

Because the success of folks like Industry Dive proves the significant value that can be created when publishers build on a foundation of solid data strategy – this raises the bar for the industry as a whole and unlocks opportunity. And that makes us all win. 

If you’re struggling to take the first step with your data strategy, don’t worry. You can reach out to my friends at Bombora to help you get started. If you need even more white glove service then send me an email and I’ll make sure you’re taken care of.