Data & AI
The Power of First‑Party Data and Personalization
April 28, 2021
Personalization means something different to every media group. But no matter how you slice it, success starts with one key element: first-party data.
Used strategically, it helps you gain new subscribers, diversify your brand’s revenue streams, and future-proof your business model with data-driven insights tailored to your unique business needs.
While we could write a million-word post about the power of first-party data and personalization, chances are we’d be wasting our time preaching to the choir.
So, instead of hypothetical scenarios and overused value propositions, let’s explore how leading media brands like Insider, The Atlantic, Food52, Fortune Connect, and Dotdash are actually using first-party data marketing to make audience engagement more personal — and profitable — than ever.
Everybody Wins with Personalized Email Newsletters
Through first-party data, Insider fuels its family of more than 20 personalized email newsletters. By combining 360-degree reader profiles with past website interactions and email response rates, this brand delivers personalized content regardless of how, when, or where someone prefers to interact.
And now, email click-through rates and recirculation traffic are skyrocketing. Saga, the organization’s proprietary first-party data platform, even connects advertisers with Insider fans most likely to convert based on sharing interests and behaviors rather than purely demographic data with its partners. So everyone can work smarter, not harder.
Setting the Price with Subscriber Data
The Atlantic has a long, storied history. But it didn’t have a paywall protecting its digital content until September 2019. Rather than rushing to market and taking the risk of driving loyal readers away, the magazine surveyed them about how much they’d be willing to pay for online content. And, thanks to first-party data, it worked.
As it continues to refine subscription offerings and price points, The Atlantic is paying closer attention than ever to audience engagement. And this approach has inspired an entirely new personalization approach as a result. Instead of trying to reach as many people as possible, the publication focuses its efforts on getting one reader to interact with its content multiple times every month via newsletter — maximizing the chances of converting each one into a lifelong subscriber.
Scaling Content and Commerce Through Personalization
Food52 is perhaps the signature example of a media company that has successfully implemented a content and commerce strategy at scale. And it owes much of this accomplishment to the power of first-party data.
Every month, this brand reaches almost 13 million consumers who are responsible for roughly two-thirds of Food52’s annual revenue. But the value flows both directions in this personalized shopping experience. By analyzing first-party data collected from its most loyal customers, the company is able to add relevant, new products before alerting buyers with a catchy headline, a gorgeous photo, and a persuasive personalized message.
Whether it’s a new recipe or an exclusive promotion, Food52 is an email personalization powerhouse because the brand optimizes for customer acquisition at every possible opportunity. The organization isn’t afraid to ask its shoppers for signups and personal data points throughout the buyer journey — and customers have responded by giving them more insight than ever into purchase preferences and consumption habits.
Variety is the Spice of Marketing Life
Did you know that almost 40% of Fortune’s annual revenue comes from live events and conferences designed for high-level execs? Considering everything that’s happened over the past year, it was time for the publication to make some much-needed changes. And first-party data helped them make it happen.
After studying its audience’s behaviors and preferences carefully, the company launched Fortune Connect last October to give mid-career professionals access to a library of recorded event content, weekly newsletters, virtual meetup opportunities, and condensed online learning modules.
But this isn’t a new trend. It’s simply Fortune’s latest step at providing a variety of subscription levels to make its content accessible and engaging for a variety of new or under-served readers. Today, the publication features a three-tier digital paywall with clearly defined benefits for each unique category.
Enhancing Partnerships Through First-Party Data
Dotdash (formerly About.com) is taking advantage of first-party data to push evergreen content, personalized product recommendations, and relevant ads to its strategic partners.
In a project with Ford Motor Company, for example, the brand combined its own reader insights with U.S. Census data to find places where families of seven people or more — that likely need a larger vehicle — live to make Ford’s outreach more effective.
The Spruce, Dotdash’s home design property, also used first-party data to great effect. By listening to input from thousands of design and décor aficionados in its audience, the company developed an exclusive line of paint for Amazon and teamed up with brands like iDesign and Lowe’s to launch popular home organization products throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you’re not harnessing the full potential of first-party data in your personalization strategy, the time to act is now. Because Google will eliminate third-party cookies forever by the end of 2022. If you could use a few pointers in preparing for tomorrow’s cookieless media world, download your copy of our newest guide to get started.
Publishing in a Cookieless World: How First-Party Data Is Transforming Media Companies
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