March 16. 2020 – By Dan Barker, COO of MEDQOR & CEO of Chronicle Health
Read the full article at: Publishing Excutive
Here’s how MEDQOR transformed from a traditional B2B publisher into a data-driven media company.
Programmatic media buying has been stealing the lunch of publishers for more than a decade. I know this because, before running MEDQOR, a leading B2B publisher for the healthcare industry, I worked on the media agency side. I know as well as anyone how the promise of data and technology streamlining the media business has amounted to a race to the bottom as publishers gave away their readers to data-driven audience targeting and bargain-basement CPMs. It’s been my experience that life doesn’t often offer genuine redemption. Fortunately, this is the opportunity I now enjoy at MEDQOR and Chronicle Health.
It may be difficult to remember, but prior to the advent of programmatic in 2007, delivering digital campaigns in full was an impossible task for publishers. We sold media with a handshake and an endless email barrage complete with the requisite Excel docs attached. Then a synapse of technologies and third-party data vendors emerged between supply and demand and began to streamline and scale media transactions. The promise of “right person, right message, right time” filled the hearts of advertisers, empowering them to buy their precise audience in real-time across multiple inventory sources. Overnight, campaigns began to deliver promised impressions cherry-picked from cheap remnant inventory and supported with centralized frequency capping, bid optimization, and unified campaign reporting.
The Silver Lining
Fast forward to today. Depending on whom you ask, Facebook and Google devour 60-80% of all digital ad budgets, while Amazon and trendy mobile-first players like TikTok eat up their share. Historically, publishers’ knee-jerk answers to challenges like these were to tweak their inventory strategies by adding more video, more podcasts, more sponsored content, and more ad slots. Unfortunately, adding inventory dilutes scarcity, requires significant investment to implement, and risks agitating user experience. It’s rarely a magic bullet for publishers.
Moreover, new consumer privacy legislation passed in the EU and California has quickened the demise of the third-party cookie, which underpins the entire addressable advertising industrial complex. Sounds apocalyptic, doesn’t it? It does only until you realize that third-party cookies were always a programming hack and never intended for audience targeting. It’s time to do this right. Digital advertising should be rebuilt upon a foundation of first-party data. This is a chance for publishers to slip back into the driver’s seat if they can successfully transform their product paradigm from content to data.
This is precisely why we began to rethink MEDQOR’s mission. We were receiving pressure from our clients to deliver not just access to a specific audience, but deeper insights and more sophisticated products. Meeting these needs required a digital transformation. To that end, a first-party data tzar was appointed (yours truly) and a separate data-centric entity, Chronicle Health, was created to complement MEDQOR’s media business. We invested in new technology, specifically a customer data platform (CDP), to manage critical data across 10 vertical-focused titles, uncover actionable insights, and drive measurable results for our advertisers.
Sourcing the technology and talent needed to take advantage of first-party data was another huge challenge. Publishers are content experts by nature, but now we must be technologists too, building our own tech infrastructure to take full advantage of our own data. This requires data scientists to work with marketers who understand how to extract the full value of first-party data and enhance its appeal to advertisers. For digital-first publishers, the transition may be easier, but for traditional publishers with a print legacy, the shift from traditional publishing business models to a data offering is particularly daunting. We leaned heavily on Leverage Lab, a media and technology consultancy, to transform our media and data products and help reinvent our business models.