The Power Of The First-Party Consumer Relationship

gordon-mcleod-krux-ddt“Data Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Gordon McLeod, president of Krux Digital.

I recently hosted an event for media industry friends where famed photographer Rick Smolan, co-creator of the just-released The Human Face of Big Data, provided the keynote remarks. He regaled us with first-hand insights and stories about the Human Face project. As he spoke, it became abundantly clear where Rick and his collaborators have truly succeeded:  as the book’s title might suggest, they have translated the monumental changes wrought by Big Data into very personal terms.

As Rick states in the foreword of the book, “When we began this project, I was skeptical of the many claims I heard that Big Data might one day turn out to be more transformative than the Internet. Having now traversed vast regions of this new land, I have become a convert.” And I’m a convert too. Some statistics from the book provide context for the changes afoot: “From the beginning of recorded time until 2003, we created 5 exabytes of data (5 billion gigabytes).  In 2011 the same amount was created every two days.  By 2013, it’s expected that the time will shrink to 10 minutes.”

And it struck me in the moment that the human side is too often overlooked in digital media.  With all the talk about targeted this and programmatic that, we sometimes forget what it’s all about – the consumers we serve. For publishing and content delivery, what consumers truly seek is an experience of learning and discovery. Advertising, when done well, becomes part of a rich and personal consumer dialogue. And for commerce, even the smallest transactions can lead to very meaningful long-term relationships. Whether buyer or seller or content producer or technology provider, media will always have a pretty simple premise: creating deep and durable relationships with consumers by first understanding their needs and then pursuing creative avenues to satisfy them.

At the same event, I moderated a panel with a number of revenue and technology leaders in digital media. The discussion ranged far and wide, with participants sharing how they are recasting business strategies to meet the needs of a new media paradigm – all premised on their privileged first-party consumer relationships. What we covered left me excited and inspired.

  • Newspaper publishers are using data to reach readers in new ways, revolutionizing circulation marketing models for both print and digital.
  • Cable networks are developing direct-to-consumer relationships with ardent viewers, independent of MSOs and other distribution channels.
  • New publishing platforms are integrating aggregated content, social media, and multiscreen engagement, all powered by a data-driven revenue model.

Success in all these cases hinges on how well you know those you serve and how adept you are at putting data to work in serving them. And I am encouraged by recent research suggesting that, while privacy concerns related to tracking and targeting are – quite rightly – top of mind, consumers do understand the underlying value exchange at play. In today’s environment, you can’t weed out data from media, or media from data. They exist together in a virtuous circle, one which savvy players exploit to improve revenue performance and deepen consumer relationships.

While I rarely get on a soapbox and opine on things for the year to come, I will make an exception this time and tell you one thing that’s true for 2013. No scratch that – one thing that is going to prove true for the next decade. We are entering a period in media that will be positively defined by the first-party consumer relationship. First-party data is both the fuel for and exhaust of the new media engine, and with first-party consumer access comes real power and privilege – and great responsibility too. As such, it’s incumbent upon all players to proceed in the spirit of transparency and trust.

In those first-party consumer relationships, and in all of the data that spins out of countless individual interactions, we’ll find the key to transforming the rules of play for advertising, content, and commerce for generations to come.  And if you think I’m overstating the case, I encourage you to run out and buy Rick Smolan’s book. Data is changing everything, and if you aren’t mindful of those changes now, you certainly will be after a little time looking into its Human Face.

Follow Krux Digital (@kruxdigital) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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