Guardian’s data focus will be good for advertisers

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The Guardian announced last week that the first step in its new ’digital first’ strategy is to get its database in order. It is putting information from various sources together, including from apps, its job and dating websites and from subscriptions.

The new strategy will also involve a management restructure and a ’new approach to managing our portfolio of investments,’ according to Amelia Fawcett, Guardian Media Group (GMG) chair.

There’s no indication of how much this will cost, but it hopefully means the Guardian Media Group (GMG) will be able to better its £9 million profit for the year to April, revealed earlier this month (already an improvement on the previous year’s £171m loss).

At that time, Fawcett said: “The challenge facing us, and news organisations across the world, is how to translate digital audience growth into commercial success.”

But rather than starting with the people side of the business, GMG has decided to look at the data part first.

Rob Grimshaw, managing director of FT.com, took a similar approach when he started in his role three years ago. He invested in a data system that meant potential subscribers could be tightly targeted and rather than ’blasting’ out nearly 4 million emails a week to people who had registered interest, FT.com now sends out a few tens of thousands to those who show particular behaviour.

But he describes getting the right attitude to digital media as ’like turning a supertanker around’. He thought the hardest part of his job would be understanding the technology but actually he said the biggest challenge has been the cultural shift towards digital and getting it integrated into everything the business does.

“Rather than digital being something for 100 geeks in the corner, it is something for the entire organisation. It is the only way we can succeed – we need a broad font of ideas and creativity,” he told Marketing Week.

The Financial Times group profits were up 10% this year, in part due to its digital subscriptions business. It is also converting people from just being registered users to full subscribers and says advertisers can get a lot of information about them.

One thing that FT.com has just launched is a tool called Deep View, which allows brands to see data on where someone works, their socio-demographic background and the type of advertising creative they click on. Rather than marketers ’kicking and screaming’ when faced with the FT’s advertising rates, Grimshaw claims they are happy to pay because they can reach the audience they want to given the accuracy of the data the media owner has.

Clearly the Guardian and the FT have different readers – and arguably the FT’s very specific audience of international decision makers are both willing to pay for a subscription and very valuable to advertisers – but starting to clean up its databases is critical if GMG is going to make the most from its readers and give them the best content too.

See this week’s Marketing Week for the full interview with Rob Grimshaw, managing director of FT.com

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