How a Small Publisher Used First-Party Data To Scale Its Reach 50x

Last month Penske Media, which owns Hollywood Reporter, Billboard and Vibe, announced a new data services division called Atlas Data Studio that creates first-party data segments for marketers to target ads to specific customers.

Unlike third-party data, which is information collected by an entity that does not have a direct relationship with the user, first-party data is information collected directly from your customers. The Atlas Studio takes data points like subscriptions, membership data and virtual event sign-ups to develop information around known users.

The tidal wave of data privacy regulation (CASL, GDPR, California Data Privacy and a slew of others) combined with major tech platforms like Apple and Google abandoning third-party cookies lead many to predict the decline of third-party data and power coming back to publishers who can use that first-party data to sell high-value audiences and scale their reach beyond their own websites and communities.

While Penske joins a list of heavy hitters such as The New York TimesThe Washington PostForbes and Bloomberg in building out first-party data solutions, the opportunity is open to publishers of all sizes, provided they make the not-insurmountable investment in a tech stack that both organizes the data and makes it actionable.

“With the demise of the third-party cookie, resources are going to shrivel up and disappear,” says AnnMarie Wills, CEO and president at first-party data specialists Leverage Lab. “Organizations with deep, rich, organized and accessible first-party data will be in the catbird’s seat.”

Not Just Retargeting
Legal publisher ALM in 2019 introduced Audience First, an advertising platform that targets decision makers and influencers through first-party data and self-reported demographic data. They then use advanced ad technology to drive those messages to audience segments on both ALM channels and beyond, including social media and other websites.

ALM is quick to point out that this is different from retargeting. “Retargeting allows for an anonymous user to be followed based on cookies,’” says Matt Weiner, president of marketing services at ALM. “If I am identifying a specific individual and targeting that individual, you can see where the value starts to increase.”

How Aviation International News Scaled Its Reach 50X
Scale has always been a challenge for B2B media, which typically serves high value but niche audiences. Today’s digitally-focused marketers are demanding both scale and ROI without any wasted spending.

“First-party data is not new for B2B publishers,” says David Leach, COO of Aviation International News (AIN), which covers the aviation sector. “We’ve always tracked subscriptions and demographics with our print product. That is the same first-party data that we’re talking today but the tech stack and complexity have changed.”

With a traditional mix of print, websites and newsletters, AIN faces similar challenges to much of the B2B industry when it comes to serving digital marketers looking for reach and ROI.

“We could offer print but that includes many of the demographics they aren’t interested in specifically, and the ROI is difficult to show,” says Leach. “We could offer digital display or newsletter placement, and there is some demonstrable ROI but still a lot of unknown traffic. We could isolate our audience in CRM and target with direct email, but that could burn out our list. We could target content on our website but doing that at scale doesn’t work—it cuts our traffic and inventory too thin.”

Despite knowing more about its audience than ever before, AIN’s ability to productize this information at scale—the key part—was limited.

To jump that hurdle, AIN realized it needed to add a Customer Data Platform to the mix. Guided by Leverage Lab, AIN tapped Lytics as its CDP to an integrated tech stack that included HubSpot as digital CRM and Computer Fulfillment as print CRM.

“This brings together all our siloes of data,” says Leach. “Now what we can do is track that behavior pattern in our CRM—we have opens and clicks but also website behaviors like white paper downloads and webinar sign ups. It gives a much more robust look at our audience and brings all behaviors and activities into one profile.”

If AIN sold an advertiser on the magazines, it could target 5,600 names. With the addition of behavioral interest data, third-party lists and another 4,300 names from its other media brands, AIN can now offer a targeted audience on its own properties of more than 15,000.

AIN can then target its own readers and lookalike demographics with offsite display advertising on other websites and social media channels and drive those eyeballs back to its own brands. “We can increase our inventory by 50 times in terms of what we can offer a client,” says Leach.

Selling Audience, Not Product
AIN has shifted to selling audience, not just selling product. “That can be a hard thing for our sales staff to get their heads around but it’s incredibly powerful, especially with what marketers are asking for,” says Leach.  “This allows us to target audience at scale. In the old days, our ability to reach this audience on our own channels at scale would have been nearly impossible.”

Like ALM, Leach stresses that this approach is not retargeting or programmatic advertising.

“These are folks that we’ve identified with first-party data that we’ve collected forever—they’re a pilot for this company, flying out of this location, flying this type of aircraft and one day they might be interested in retrofitting that aircraft with a $500,000 avionics overhaul,” he adds.  “That’s who our advertisers want to reach. We’re just starting on this journey, but the results so far are very encouraging. Some of our clients are all about this while others are still doing all print. Either way, it’s still a great story to tell.”


Beyond Virtual Events: 3 Replacements for Live Events That Are Taking Center Stage in 2021

The cancellation of live events in 2020 (and for most, at least the first half of 2021) has forced publishers to find new ways to connect buyers and sellers, particularly as sponsors shifted ad dollars earmarked for events into all-digital channels.

Virtual events were the obvious answer but if you talk to most publishers and sponsors privately, they’ll admit they see “traditional” virtual facsimiles of live events as a stopgap to be abandoned as soon as the world goes back to normal.

Here we look at three solutions developed in response to the crisis that have performed so well that they will continue to be offered even as live events return.

1.  Social Simulcasts

AC Business Media (ACBM) covers markets ranging from heavy construction to manufacturing to supply chain and that means serving sponsors with heavy equipment to sell. As events canceled, giving customers a way to get products in front of potential buyers was critical.

“We were at CONEXPO last March just as the world started imploding,” says ACBM Chief Digital Officer Kris Heineman. “Big manufacturers had already paid millions to ship machines out to the show but they didn’t come themselves because they didn’t want their staffs exposed to COVID. When events go away they’re not going to stop producing products, they’ll start looking for other outlets.”

While many publishers produced virtual product showcases within proprietary digital platforms, ACMB created simulcasts—basically live streaming—that leveraged social media to expand the reach of its audience.

In one example, ACBM created a single livestream that played simultaneously across the seven different Facebook pages devoted to its Construction brands.

“When we first started doing this, we were concerned that the channels would start overlapping with each other but it’s actually a case of more is more—with each platform you get a certain percentage of your overall audience,” says Heineman. “Let’s say you have 1 million Facebook followers—Facebook won’t let you organically reach all those people. But if you stream to 10 different Facebook pages, maybe you reach 40,000 here and 60,000 there, so it’s all complementary.”

ACBM created a simulcast for equipment manufacturer Bobcat that drove more than 100,000 views and 800 interactions in the first few days.

“For B2B, those are high numbers,” says Heineman. “When most people in B2B say they put something on Facebook they’re usually getting two or three interactions. Not everyone thinks there’s opportunity in B2B for social media but this product proves that wrong.”

Customers continue to clamor for the live streams even as ACBM begins exploring the return of live events. “We can’t produce enough video,” says Heineman. “We’re already sold out on some channels through 2021.”

[Editor’s note: For more on how ACBM is creating social simulcasts, register for our upcoming webcast this Thursday, March 25 at 1pm ET on New Revenue From Social Media: How To Build a Live Product Showcase.]

2. Marketing Services

Marketing services have grown faster than digital display advertising in B2B media for several years now but prior to last year still took a backseat to events as an overall revenue producer for most publishers.

Marketing services has always been tied closely to events for Government Executive Media Group (GEMG) but in 2020 came to the forefront by helping customers meet their event objectives when live events came to a standstill (and finished the year with revenue up 43 percent as a group while helping to drive 20 percent topline growth for the overall company).

Frank Salatto, GEMG

“It wasn’t just about helping customers achieve their event objectives with us but their event objectives writ large,” says Frank Salatto, Vice President and General Manager of Marketing and Communications at GEMG. “Honestly, we were part of the conversation with clients like never before in how to rebuild their event programs.”

GEMG transitioned quickly to an all-digital environment by turning large live events into multi-part integrated digital programs, using content as the connector to drive audience from one touchpoint to another.

“Digital events were part of that but it’s a series of digital events that would allow you to recreate what you would get with a live event but in between those you need additive content that keeps the conversation going,” says Salatto.

Data collection and diverse capabilities helped GEMG keep revenue whole for all but one live event booked prior to the pandemic.

“There is opportunity in the data that you can collect,” says Salatto. “That’s always been a pain point for live events. But in digital we know what customers are interacting with across a much longer time-period and we know more about them including how interested they are and how ready they are to buy.”

Branded websites proved to be a winner for GEMG last year and will continue to be a key product in 2021. “That turned out to be a great vehicle for brands to tell their story and drive sustained engagement over time but also a way for us to have a center piece for really large, long term programs and have tack-on revenue beyond the initial build,” says Salatto.

GEMG expects a similar marketing environment in 2021 and is looking to capitalize on its stable which includes branded microsites, immersive articles, video and audio, digital event integration and data visualization.

“We believe this is sustainable and there’s room to grow,” says Salatto. “The net of this is that 14 out of our 15 top clients have marketing services central to the program they bought with us. We are not a huge piece of the revenue pie as an individual unit but we are a driver of topline revenue and a significant part of the pathway to bigger revenue programs.”

3. Attendee Data

You’ve likely heard of first party data and third-party data but how about zero party data?

At our recent Business Information and Media Summit, Informa Markets chief digital officer Jason Brown, who leads a newly created group called Informa Markets DNA, showed how the company is finding new revenue by leveraging event audience data into a new take on lead gen that not only creates revenue in the interim but promises to elevate the value of Informa’s live events when they return.

That includes creating online marketplaces that are enhanced versions of the show directories that Informa produces for its live events. Customers can use the online marketplaces to search products and suppliers, discover new products via a recommendation engine, make connections, create a virtual “walking” or favorites list and register for other Informa physical and virtual events.

The online marketplaces also provide Informa with “zero party data” where users offer direct insight into their interests through their use of the marketplaces, which helps Informa create authenticated data that shows not only who a lead is also their buying intent.

“We take our first party data, the third-party data that we can buy or borrow and the zero-party data given to us by our audience when they are specifically after something and combine that information together to create something called authenticated data,” says Brown. “If we do all of that correctly, our gray cloud of a data lake becomes a green cloud of known buyer status. That’s where we can say who our buyer is and where they are in the funnel.”

In addition to the traditional model of offering leads as part of a one-off sponsorship, Informa is moving toward an annual subscription model that includes,

  • continuous access to fresh data
  • ability to count, segment and modify criteria for best data selection
  • intent scoring
  • ability to create a sales pipeline that feeds directly into the customer’s CRM

“Instead of bundling and packaging programs, this is an annual program that you can subscribe to and we can present different layers and opportunities to you,” says Brown.