Newspaper publishers hit a turning point in 2015: Global advertising revenue—traditionally their major source of income—fell below circulation revenue for the first time since 2011, according to the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers.
One reason behind this trend is the outflow of advertising dollars from newspapers to social media platforms such as Google, Snapchat, and Facebook.
But some publishers are fighting back—among them El Tiempo, Colombia’s most widely circulated newspaper. El Tiempo has built a cloud-based digital marketing platform to help capture and analyze online behaviors of roughly 7 million print subscribers and 28 million online unique visitors, group them into specific audience segments, and then sell those segments to advertisers, which then target these consumers with personalized offers.
“We needed a way to generate new revenue streams to survive, since traditional subscription-based advertising sales will not be enough to sustain us,” says Juan Pablo Moreno, chief strategy and data officer for El Tiempo.
With the massive popularity of ecommerce in Colombia, El Tiempo is able to use its numerous online news portals to promote all sorts of products for its affiliate partners and clients—from vacation packages and college educations to used cars and new homes.
It’s been slow out of the gate: Sales of audience data to advertisers has generated only 20% of El Tiempo’s total advertisement income so far. But Moreno expects data sales to double the newspaper’s total income by 2018.
Merging Physical and Digital
Whether it hits this growth target or not, El Tiempo has no plans to replace its physical, subscription-based business model with a digital one. Instead, the newspaper plans to merge subscriber data with online audience profiles, creating new lines of business and adding more services that will help grow revenue.
But to do this, El Tiempo has had to expand its focus from delivering news and serving up ads to also developing audiences. “The most important aspect of our digital and business transformation is mastering data management,” says El Tiempo CIO Julio Cesar Munive.
Using the cloud-based Oracle BlueKai data management platform (DMP), part of Oracle Marketing Cloud, Munive’s team is able to capture, structure, and classify nearly 4,000 variables of consumer data each day as online visitors navigate across the newspaper’s classified portals featuring content related to news, real estate, housing, and jobs.
With the DMP, even nontechnical staff can organize audience profiles into distinct categories, allowing El Tiempo’s advertisers to select specific consumer segments and target them with personalized offers.
“In the past, each of these portals was managed by a different group, and the data was analyzed separately,” says Carlos Andres Guzman, head of audience management. This not only made it difficult to understand the entire profile of a visitor but also made it nearly impossible to create a personalized offer that had any real probability of converting into a sale.
The newspaper is also using Oracle BlueKai’s ID swap feature, a data exchange and authentication capability that automatically identifies which visitors are registered users and then updates the existing profiles in the DMP with the exact pages that were visited, which links were clicked on, and what subscriptions or products, if any, were purchased.
Because Oracle BlueKai connects to El Tiempo’s customer relationship management, business intelligence, and Oracle Marketing Cloud apps, all of the visitor data across each of the portals is now consolidated, enabling Guzman’s team to analyze entire audience profiles, create targeted campaigns for them, and then send offers directly to them through SMS, instant messaging, and email. “We now know each of our site visitor’s job, salary, and purchase history, and whether they are interested in a car, a house, or an MBA,” says Guzman.
With all of the detailed profile data that El Tiempo is capturing and selling to its affiliates, the newspaper is careful to respect its readers’ privacy and comply with Colombian data protection laws.
To that end, Munive has configured the Oracle BlueKai ID swap feature to send out a tracking script that retrieves anonymous data (such as a hashed email address) and passes it to the Oracle BlueKai app, which then returns a unique user ID that associates the contact in Oracle Marketing Cloud with its Oracle BlueKai user profile. This helps ensure that any information about a specific person remains solely in the Oracle Marketing Cloud app—and is never shared with advertisers. Since these anonymous identifiers are automatically assigned to each consumer profile, audience segments can be created and sold based solely on content interests, purchase behavior, and demographics.
“We only share information about whether a person is male or female, a job seeker or a car buyer,” says Guzman. “There are no specific details or personal sensitive data about the individual person, such as a name, address, or phone number.”
For newspapers like El Tiempo, long-term survival will depend on how well they can execute “platform-agnositc” business models, and use technology to capture audience data and then convert that data into revenue. According to Moreno, “Oracle BlueKai is a fundamental part of our model.”
Sasha Banks-Louie is a brand journalist for Oracle.