Daniel Farey-Jones: Data and Direct bulletin editor
Daniel Farey-Jones: Data and Direct bulletin editor
A view from Daniel Farey-Jones

Publishers on slow road to data marketplace?

Amid the increasing hype around the intersection between data and media buying, there was a useful reality check last Friday at the annual gathering of online publishers, the AOP Summit.

Data has clearly moved up the AOP’s agenda. Last year it was not judged worthy of a session but this year there were two, including an hour-long panel on data trading.

Publishers on the panel were enthusiastic about the opportunities for selling information about their audience to media agencies, especially Richard Foster from Future, but were far from doe-eyed.

Foster, who as digital director at Future has the benefit of dealing directly with agency trading desks, told panel moderator Matt O’Neill that the market was "nascent" and his company was still feeling its way in establishing a settled pricing structure.

The impression that publishers have their work cut out to make serious profit from trading data was reinforced when Foster highlighted the complexity for publishers of getting their own technology to engage with third parties and how the sector was not able to access finance as easily as more fashionable new entrants in the online ecosystem.

In addition, the need to learn to walk before you can run was the message coming from the panel’s other publishing representative, Marcus Wilkinson.

Wilkinson, publishing director at the more business audience-focused IDG UK, stressed the importance of exploiting data well for internal purposes before being able to work out "the true value in terms of putting it outside the organisation".

When I asked members of the panel what progress they had made in integrating their offline and online data, Wilkinson candidly admitted the process of bringing "seven or eight sources" together had taken at least "a couple of years" and the system, while "an amazing tool", had initially suffered from an overly-complex interface.

As for the idea of monetising this effort by selling some of the data to advertisers, Wilkinson said IDG was experimenting but, cautioning that publishers should be careful to establish a premium for data at the beginning of the market, added he was keeping close control of it.

With many publishers still grappling with such issues, there may be no overnight take-off in the size of the marketplace - as the more places agencies have to go to get data, and the harder different sources are to compare, the more prohibitive the cost of trying to target their ads.

This was a point made earlier in the day by ITV’s managing director of commercial and online Fru Hazlitt and again in the 'Dealing in Data' session by VivaKi’s head of product, audience on demand, Paul Silver.

"What is critical, is whatever we do as broadcasters and publishers, we still need to work on a common targeting approach," she said.

"We need there to be one [standard approach] across all major publishers, agencies and advertisers, so that it reduces transaction costs and really does create value."

Silver called for "some common langugage" and structure, claiming "the third party data space feels a bit like the wild west".

Read more on Hazlitt’s industry cry here and on Silver and Foster's thoughts here.

Follow Daniel Farey-Jones on Twitter @danfareyjones