How a prominent UK daily news brand is making data insights and targeted marketing pay

UK Daily new brandAs a top British daily news brand, our customer reaches 1 in 5 UK adults every day and 70% of the population each month. In 2019 it launched a tablet and smartphone app that allows users to enjoy content from the UK or Scottish editions of its daily periodicals, along with exclusive daily radio broadcasts, podcasts and videos from leading journalists. This draws 34,000 weekly users, with an impressive dwell time of 47 minutes per day.

Our interviewee was employed as the group’s first Head of Customer Data & Insight, tasked with developing the editorial and commercial business analytics capabilities of the full portfolio of titles, as well as optimizing the marketing division’s data analytics strategy. He has been instrumental in helping to develop new data-driven products, such as a daily news service linked with the app and a bespoke customer engagement score that holistically differentiates between more and less engaged customers, with the aim of increasing the lifetime value of each customer.

We spoke to him to learn how the media group has benefited from making better use of its data:

What would you say are the main data challenges your team is facing today?

When I think about data, acquisition and retention are two things where we’re now going in with a laser focus. Pretty much every communication we do direct to consumer is personalized. Personalized doesn’t have to mean a one-to-one communication, personalized is a segment or sending the right communication at the right time, or the right offer to the right person. It’s also very difficult when people ask you how much money you make, because we feed all parts of the business. I’ve done some work saying how valuable a record is on the database, but it’s difficult to substantiate that.

How do you make sure all your online/offline data works together cohesively?

From a data perspective, we’re quite good at that now. I think there was a period of time where there was one big central team, not just for [our subsidiary group] but for [the wider media company]. And then it got disbanded, then silos went up. (In) the past three years we have been able to take down those silos and start to use it a bit more as a group-wide asset, as opposed to in its individual area. We’re not trying to get back to one team, but we’ve been able to join, link and understand which customers are shared.

spoke-hubAnd how close would you say you are to getting a 360 degree view of your subscribers?

I guess we can do it right now, it takes a little bit of stitching and joining and some sequel code, but we can do it.

Is that helpful for different departments across the business?

Some people understand it more than others. I still get asked questions, “How can we tell if one of our [mobile email account manager app] customers has purchased something in travel?” That’s easily available information. I think the important thing is, people that do use it understand what’s there and what kind of information they can get their hands on.

Does customer data enable you to sell more advertisement placements?

With the [mobile app] team we know an awful lot about them, so if an advertiser wants to be specific about the type of people they target, then we can do that. In terms of ad placements in the paper, people go after the total demographic of our readers, but we do quite a lot of solus email marketing through advertisers, where we can target people in a certain demographic, a certain interest category. We’ve got 320,000 active customers which we know a lot about, so we’re able to say to our advertising partners, “You can get directly to the inbox of these people, you know exactly who they are and what advertisements they see.”

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How do you utilize the customer engagement support?

Giving customers a score each time they engage is a very simple way to understand how much people do with us and how valuable they are. The higher the score, the more your lifetime value, the more your transactional spend, and probably the longer you’ve been with us as a business. Then we’re able to survey the different bands and build personas off the back of it, so we’ve got behaviour. And this is to help us decide, “Why are those people high in the score, why are they low, what should we do to get the lows into the high?” So there’s a next best action coming out of it.

Do you have any examples of how you would treat someone with a high score compared to a lower score?

So, the high score it’s all about retention. How do we keep them? How do we spoil them? VIPs, can we get them early access to offers, can we give them better offers? The low score is about understanding what can we do to get the journey to go up in score. It may be that we just get them to engage with our email marketing, it may be too soon to buy a product. So, it’s more about how can we get them on the journey, to bring them up to a score of where we should start talking about a subscription, about a holiday.

What do you see as the future for the news media industry?

We are trying to come up with premium digital content for our customers. It’s no secret that circulation is declining year-on-year. How do we slow that down and open up new ways of getting revenue? With [our mobile and tablet news service], can we find an audience that is interested in having a news briefing as opposed to kind of a never-ending website?

Quite a lot of our readers will buy the paper and then update throughout the day, probably from the BBC website or (TV news). We’re trying to look at this briefings product as... in the morning at 7am you get the news, but by lunchtime it’s been updated, maybe a bit more in-depth opinion and analysis, and then at 5 o’clock it’s a slightly different take.

And we watch people like the The New York Times in their subscription journey, they’re 20 years in front of us. They’ve got 4 million subscribers. How can we get there? Have we got the content that people are willing to pay for? We’re really big in female and health and royals, is there any content in there which people will pay for?


BlueVenn works with over 25 news media and publishing organisations across US and UK that utilize our Customer Data Platform technology to reduce data silos and enable better insights, powering more personalized subscription marketing and customer intelligence. Our CDP acts as the foundation of the data layer in a martech stack, which enables our customers to run highly targeted campaigns and be better informed about their subscribers. If you’d like to discuss how to introduce a CDP into your organization, please get in touch here or request a demo.

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Topics: Media personalisation customer engagement customer insight personalization data analysis consumer insight