Priority one for media-company executives, judging from the program and the conversations at the Connectiv Executive Summit this week in Austin, Texas, is data. And the conclusion for many attendees is that the pivot to successful “productization” of data has been a mixed bag.
In short, B2B media is really focused on building stronger databases. It’s not surprising. The marketers formerly known as advertisers now have a much greater ability to find and communicate with their prospects, without media partners. Often they won’t spend a dime on advertising and marketing without measurable ROI. They’re evolving from being satisfied with audience reach to Account Based Marketing.
“When I grew up in the industry, we on the media side had a magic formula,” says John French, a former CEO of Cygnus Business Media and now a consultant. “We’d go out and find 50,000 people and create a community for them. Advertisers needed us for that. And then, B2B became marginalized.
“Advertisers realized they could find their own audiences,” French added. “They started doing the things we used to do. The data revolution is an opportunity to take that magic back.”
The opportunity is there, but succeeding isn’t a given. If all the executives at the Executive Summit acknowledge there’s a huge opportunity in using data to learn more about their audiences, and then selling that intelligence to advertisers, the challenge is in the implementation.
“A lot of us are still struggling with being able to productize and monetize the data we have, and how to marry the data with analytic tools to help us to create a significant business model out of what we already have,” says Tom Kemp, CEO of Northstar Travel Media.
Why is it a struggle? There are many reasons. Technology systems, for one, tend to be bought based on immediate need, not on corporate vision. Systems tend to be brand-centric, not enterprise-wide solutions. Then, too, brand leaders tend to be proprietary. The end result is no unified database, very little sharing of data, too many vendors selling the same stuff to the same company—systems that don’t work in unison, and are redundant. The current reality is data that lives in dozens of silos isn’t well deployed and never gets into the hands of the sellers—marketers and salespeople—and the content creators who can create stronger content better aligned with the sellers’ objectives.
“B2B media companies, in my experience, don’t always view their database as an asset of the whole company,” says Aaron Oberman, CEO of Omeda. “Events people have data sitting somewhere. Audience people have data. The sales team. The editorial. That’s why CEOs have to be involved in the data-management decision.”
Rob Sanchez, CEO of MeritDirect, says he sees the same dynamic. “Most of the challenge with data is around integration and execution,” he says. “It’s not finding more, it’s finding out how to make it work. What we find in a lot of companies is their data’s in bad shape. We’re seeing a lot of demand for cleaning up data and implementing it into marketing automation technology.”
All of which leads French to note that the game has changed for data decisions. “It used to be the audience-development people would make the decisions for the vendor in charge of your databases,” he says. “When you were choosing a fulfillment vendor, it was based on price and the vendor you felt comfortable with. They basically all did the same thing.
“But if you believe in building your business through your data, then you, as the CEO, better be involved in that,” French says.
The Connectiv meeting covered a lot of other ground, of course, including events, transitioning away from legacy media, and even the perspectives of a new generation of CEOs. A presentation by Bob Carrigan, CEO of Dun & Bradstreet and a former CEO of IDG, was particularly well received, as was one from Evan Smith of the Texas Tribune.
Attendees approved. “I find that the content and quality of the speakers so far this year has been a significant improvement over last year’s event,” says Northstar’s Kemp. “Bringing in people like Stephen Carter (CEO of Informa), Bob Carrigan, and Evan Smith was provocative and inspiring, and each of the speakers brought it back to what we do on a day-to-day basis.”
Jane Bogue, national sales director of HIMSS Media, agreed. “This event reaffirms that we are on the right path,” she says. The convergence of data across multiple streams is something everyone is struggling with. We rolled out marketing automation, which has helped us to become more sophisticated for our advertisers.
“Now it’s standardizing our data products,” Bogue says. “With multiple stakeholders of the data, that’s a challenge. There’s a little bit of territoriality. It can be solved but it’s making sure everyone buys into that common vision.”