We think of a hammer as a single-use tool. Swing the hammer hard and pound a nail into place. But turn the hammer around and you’ll see a claw that can be used to extricate that same nail. The way we pigeonhole hammers says a lot about how publishers see their data management platform (DMP).
While nearly every publisher uses some version of demographic data plus analytics to sell precise audience segments – which DMPs provide and advertisers crave – few utilize this tool to improve their content through the application of deep audience knowledge.
Even the most seasoned ad tech veterans can easily become lost in the ad tech Lumascape. One common misconception is that many publisher-side tools are competitive, but they are actually complementary.
In the early days of online publishing, the advent of analytics gave digital publishers a tremendous advantage over traditional competitors. Instead of making educated guesses about who might be reading their content, online publishers could precisely conclude who consumed what content and the degree to which that content kept their audience engaged. Where print publishers assumed that readers were motivated by lengthy cover stories, online publishers discovered that what they really want is snackable content.
If analytics tools are the foundation for what publishers know about their audience, a DMP is what can be built upon it. This relationship plays out in two key ways.
First, the DMP provides an additional level of audience intelligence. The amount depends on whatever data sets can be leveraged by the publisher.
There’s first-party data, which might include reader surveys or quizzes and can reveal a lot about an audience’s affinities. There are also countless sources of third-party demographic data, which have been used for years by marketers to build robust audience segments, and many publishers are increasingly following suit. Finally, there’s growing interest in second-party data, first-party data collected by another enterprise that can be exclusively shared with publishers.
Second, the DMP provides insights that publishers can act upon quickly, instead of waiting for someone to crunch the numbers, identify something unknown about a consumers’ behavior and plot a new course of action. That way, the publisher can deploy everything it knows about the audience in a dynamic way.
There are countless ways publishers can customize site content, and many have already mastered the ability to serve related content. But a few years from now, we may consider that kind of customization as quaint.
Imagine a news site that routinely publishes video along with text. Both mediums tell the same story, but each reader has a different preference for text or video. That preference may change based on their location, device and time of day.
The more the publisher knows about its audience, the better positioned it will be to serve a text-only story when the reader is at work or in a public space and doesn’t want to disturb the people around them. The publisher can then switch to the video version when the same reader is at home in the evening.
Customization is a two-step process. Step one is to combine analytics and a DMP to paint the clearest possible picture of an audience. The second step is to put those insights into action.
To put such a plan into action, publishers must first tackle the technical integration challenges. That is the easy part; what’s harder is breaking down the silos inside of a publisher.
For many publishers, an analytics tool lives within the domain of editorial, but a DMP is often something purchased by the ad sales department as way of offering more insights to advertisers. Both tools live on separate sides of the church-and-state divide.
While it’s certainly important for publishers to maintain boundaries between editorial and ad sales to protect the integrity of their brands, that mindset doesn’t extend to shared resources, such as the server room or internet connection. It shouldn’t extend to the tools that drive audience insights.
After all, a hammer is a hammer, regardless of whether it’s used to pound a nail into a piece of wood or extricate that same nail. Likewise, analytics combined with a DMP is a powerful and versatile tool; it’s time publishers put the two together for their own benefit.