Tuesday 3 August 2021

Data Opportunities for Publishers

By Stephanie Lovegrove Hansen, Director of Marketing, Silverchair – Silver sponsor of the ALPSP Virtual Conference and Awards 2021

The past year and a half brought considerable change to our industry, accelerating business model shifts, driving further consolidation, and heating some industry dialogues to a boiling point. These changes have led publishers to examine and think creatively about their value proposition and how they can monetize their content and data assets. But despite the break-neck pace of some editorial operations last year, publishing more content is not a sustainable option for increasing revenue. Instead, many publishers are asking if they can do more with what they already have. How can the data, content, and audiences they already have be used in different ways? How can they be optimized? What venues already exist for expanding the value of our resources?

A recent report from Silverchair broke down the primary ways to extend the value of existing assets into the categories of data (audience data and content data) and content (existing content and new types of content). Below are some of the report’s takeaways related to publisher data, drawing on industry and technology insights, real world examples, and expert opinion.

Data Opportunities: Your Audience

Publications have long been a major source of revenues, but they are also a source of something that is now equally or more valuable: data. Relative to some analytics and information markets, our data is laying fallow. With many readers pouring through publishing artifacts every day, this data is often the richest source of real-time information on the interests and key concerns of a publisher’s audience. 

Publishers too frequently define their “audience” in narrow terms, focusing in on a relatively known or knowable set readers, subscribers, and potential authors, and ignore the broader ecosystem of individuals and organizations in which they exist. That ecosystem has, by comparison, countless users who haven’t crossed the threshold into becoming paid subscribers or members, but are interested enough to engage (and pay) at a lesser level. 

To identify the opportunities in expanding your audience, however, you first need to understand who your audience is. Societies, associations, and publishers are perfectly positioned to use digital tools to re-establish a connection to the ignored individual, who is too often lost in Open Science debates, institutional sales arrangements, and by the genericizing effects of scale. 

While these ignored individuals have always existed, only recently has it become viable to identify and engage with them in aggregate or in a meaningful market segment. We now have analytic tools that give us a far richer understanding of our users and how the interact with our content. By using data to address the constituency that is both most ignored and most foundational to publishers—individual readers, users, learners—organizations can generate new areas for growth.

Of course, data intelligence alone doesn’t translate to revenue. The data we collect and amalgamate about our audience has to be actionable in ways that provide a better, more valuable experience for those individuals. Having a detailed and evolving profile for every user allows organizations to then gather those users into audience segments that can be flexibly combined to create directly actionable opportunities. 

Ultimately, a society’s ability to interrogate and segment its data and to test and pivot based on real-time insights, also transforms its ability to do the things it cares most about: advocate for its mission and make a difference in the world, grow membership, and grow revenues. 

Data Opportunities: Your Content

In addition to using audience data to deliver more personalized content to your users, publishers can also harness data about the ways users interact with their content to inform their content strategy. By leveraging data about membership, meetings, education, advocacy, and more, publishers have a data-driven foundation for thinking about new journals, special collections or issues, and ideas for other publishing products, like video series. 

Key to getting more mileage out of your content is the ease with which users can find the content in the first place. Discovery and discoverability have been a high-priority moving target in our industry for years, as publishers look to fulfill the needs of researchers, librarians, Google Scholar, and other indexing companies. The first step is ensuring cleaned data and normalized content formats, which helps to future-proof content to be discoverable by the most users in the most places. 

Once a publisher’s content data is cleaned, the next step is content intelligence, which means having a data-driven understanding of how content is performing. This goes beyond knowing how many people clicked on a link - it’s about knowing how many people started to read the content, how many people partially read it, how many people read the whole thing, etc. With content intelligence, publishers can share the right valuable content at the right time to the right person. Not only does this connect back to personalization and audience engagement, but it also opens opportunities for other ways to drive revenue. The more granular the information an organization has about the ways their content is being used (or not used), the more actionable that data becomes. 

Publishers create and add value in myriad ways, which means both complexity and opportunity for monetization. Even now, when aggregation, consolidation, and dissociation of content feel inevitable in our industry, we’re in a time where the technology and know-how to experiment or pursue these strategies is increasingly available and affordable, even to a small society or independent publisher. There will always be a need to deliver expert and trusted content to specialized audiences, and we’re finally getting the digital tools to succeed.

For deeper insights into these data opportunities as well as the content-related opportunities for publishers, download the full report

Silverchair is a silver sponsor of the ALPSP Virtual Conference and Awards 2021. To find out more and book your place, visit the ALPSP event website.

About the author

Stephanie Lovegrove Hansen is Director of Marketing at Silverchair. She has worked in the publishing industry for over 15 years, including at the University of Virginia Press and Clarivate Analytics.

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