The publisher data alliance: utopian dream or real possibility?

Does the rise of data sharing platforms bring the much debated concept of publishers pooling their data resources to combat the duopoly any closer, asks Paul Barnard at Sirdata?

The recent emergence of Salesforce’s Data Studio offers the market yet another platform for ‘data sharing’. This allows publishers to sell their first-party data securely and purchase second-party data – first-party data of fellow platform partners.

Data Studio joins a growing group of similar platforms, such as Adobe’s Audience Marketplace and MediaMath’s Helix. They have been created by demand from media owners, many of which view the sale of the first-party data ‘offsite’ as an opportunity to offer incremental revenue and bolster the bottom line. All within a secure environment that prevents buyers exploiting it further without consent.

Unsurprisingly though, access to this functionality comes with a significant price tag, with platform membership costing publishers a not inconsiderable amount annually. There is also a view from some quarters that selling data separated from media is a potential threat to traditional inventory sales, offering clients the opportunity to bolster the performance of their digital spend away from their publications.

However, by creating a pool of trusted second-party data that publishers and brands can use to supplement their own first-party data, these platforms are playing a key role in improving the transparency of the data available in market. In theory at least, this should improve targeting and consequently deliver more effective campaigns for the benefit of advertisers. The question is whether publishers are getting enough out of the partnership to justify the cost of membership and the potential cannibalisation of their direct data sales.

The emergence of data sharing is a step in the right direction, providing publishers with an additional tool in their armoury in the battle to gain some ground (albeit minimal) against the likes of Google and Facebook. Furthermore, these developments bring the move towards a much-discussed data alliance a little closer.

The idea of the major publishers combining their data on a neutral platform for mutual benefit has been the subject of considerable debate in recent years with little action actually taking place. Yet the concept of such a data alliance has arguably never been more pertinent. The seemingly unstoppable rise of the duopoly has meant that traditional publishers have been restricted in what they’ve been able to gain from the digital media explosion. Pooling all their data together, if managed in the right way, could potentially provide a powerful tool with which to expand their market share.

From newspaper to lifestyle media, publishers hold fresh, accurate data on a variety of general and niche audiences. By building it out and stitching together key segments, then processing it horizontally to monitor consumer behaviour and establish those groups displaying real purchase intent, publishers could offer a high quality, scalable alternative for advertisers. Meanwhile, membership costs would be limited to platform maintenance and data management.

However, a concept that has never sounded more appealing, considering the current media environment, is arguably as far away as it ever has been, despite the recent emergence of data sharing platforms. That’s because of the complex and competitive relationships that exist in the current publisher landscape, each of which is understandably protective of its own audiences and data, and has individual targets to focus on.

The big question is what would be more valuable from a publisher’s perspective: holding on tight to what data you have, and building on it using data sharing platforms, or combining resources to wrestle a far greater share of the overall digital media marketplace away from the duopoly?

Only time will tell what publishers really think and whether one or more will be bold enough to put their head above the data parapet.

Paul Barnard is Media Director at Sirdata.


About: Sirdata is a third party data-collecting platform that enables publishers to increase their income by taking advantage of Web users’ digital imprints including behaviours, interests and habits, and advertisers to provide targeted and relevant advertisements to their consumers.

Jeremy is the editor of What’s New in Publishing, and has 30 years experience in marketing, advertising and publishing.