How MailOnline is building an insights business

MailOnline is joining the ranks of a growing number of publishers keen to deepen partnerships with brands and agencies by offering more strategic — and valuable — services. The publisher has started offering key clients access to its live on-site surveying tool, Pulse, to help them make more sense of its digital audience of 29 million monthly uniques in the U.K. (over half of the U.K.’s digital population), according to comScore.

In the last few months, MailOnline has run hundreds of reader surveys on topics like views on brands or current events. The publisher will soon make its real-time analytics available to clients so they can see which articles are trending. It will also profile specific reader groups, so clients can ask questions like, “When are people most likely to read about mortgages?” or “What content are mothers reading apart from content about babies?” before spending money on campaigns.

“We’re pivoting our business; we want to be seen as a strategy and insights resource to clients,” said Bedir Aydemir, product marketing and insight director at MailOnline. “The idea is that we’re adding value before the client has spent any money.”

Digital advertising has been moving away from targeting based on broad demographic segments to more granular, interest-based targeting. Mail Advertising, the commercial division for Mail Newspapers and MailOnline within parent company DMG Media, is the driving force behind becoming an insight partner. According to SimilarWeb, over a third of MailOnline’s visitors come to it directly, making the publisher somewhat less vulnerable than others to the duopoly’s dominance. This also gives MailOnline a rich, enticing data set.

Speaking on stage at One Vizeum in London this week, Roland Agambar, CMO at parent company DMG Media said that the publisher has profiled 3.5 million of its readers. In this database, each customer has around 300 fields of data, including first-party data related to their viewing habits, engagement and transaction data — it sells everything from home goodsto travel cruises — enhanced with third-party data from partners like Netmums and Nectar. The publisher is close to having a single-customer view, and the business is starting to make use this database, said Agambar.

Database customers are separated into three segments depending on how valuable they are. MailOnline has a few thousand high-value customers, each of which spends about £4,000 ($5,400) a year with the publisher. It has a million customers in the low-value bucket. Messages are tailored to different levels accordingly; for instance, the publisher is in the process of understanding what message would nudge someone who visits the site infrequently to make a purchase or sign up to one of its newsletters.

Aydemir said MailOnline is starting to build what it calls a “next-best action engine,” which will automatically serve readers an action aimed to resonate best with them, whether that’s an ad from an ad client or an ad directing them to its property search service. “It might be serving them fewer ads, even though that’s counterintuitive,” he said, “but we want them to communicate with us more regularly.”

According to Aydemir, because MailOnline has scale, it offers guarantees of 1 million on-platform views for branded-content video, and it hasn’t had to buy traffic from social platforms or media distribution on other sites to match clients’ reach goals. Aydemir said clients are increasingly asking for more social distribution. This week in the U.S., it launched DailyMailTV, opening up another potential distribution channel for advertiser content.

Audience data is the backbone of any publisher, but using it for more commercial advantages is nascent, according to Dan Chapman, head of digital at Mediacom. “With a publisher’s understanding of their customers through analytics and research panels, they are in a great space to start stealing share in insight-driven creative concepting and production,” he said. A growing number of publishers are using this data commercially: Recently, ESI Media started delivering real-time article engagement data to advertising agencies.

MailOnline’s whole business is understanding the monetary value of customer data in ways that weren’t possible five years ago, said Agambar. One way this plays out is that Aydemir and memebers of his team now move around the company, collaborating with different departments to help them understand the value of customer data.

“We want to work in a partnership type of way with clients, but we need to be flexible,” said Dominic Williams, chief investment officer at Mail Advertising. “We’re a brand that still needs to evolve.”

[“Source-digiday”]