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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

Monetizing data: 6 ways to make money without selling your data

September 11, 2018 | By Michel Benjamin, Director of Marketing—Lotame @micheltben

Publishers keep hearing about monetizing their data to drive revenue, but there are many ways to achieve this. Selling data, whether through a data exchange or a private marketplace, is perhaps the most obvious option to increase revenue. But if you’re already taking advantage or not interested in that option, selling your data isn’t the only way to make money with your customer data. In fact, there are many creative ways in which publishers can monetize their data. Here are six opportunities to monetize data – without selling it.

1. Sell Audiences, Not Site-Sections

When you’re collecting data on your readers, you can use that data to make their audiences more sellable to advertisers. By collecting and organizing audience data from across various sites and properties, you can sell audiences instead of pages or site sections.

Say, for instance, you have an advertiser who sells kitchenware. The first place you would think to put those ads would be in the recipes section of your site, since the people who visit that section most likely enjoy cooking. With a data management platform (DMP), however, you could create an audience of users who have a lot of interest in cooking and kitchenware. The you can display those kitchenware ads across your entire site aimed specifically at those users, rather than just in your recipes section.

Since your DMP allows you to access information about your audience’s interests, you could sell ad space to a kitchenware company even if your site has nothing to with cooking, appliances or home goods. A DMP gives you insights into your audience’s interests beyond your specific site, which provides you with the opportunity to work with advertisers you never could before.

2. Increase Average CPMs

If you’re focused on selling ads, increasing the price of each one will obviously help increase your revenue. But how can you do this? Offering advertisers the ability to target their ads to the exact audience they are trying to reach means they will be willing to pay more to reach that engaged audience.  Better-targeted audiences are more sellable. When advertisers know they are reaching an engaged audience on your site, they’ll pay more to have their ads there.

3. Expand Your Overall Audience

If you’ve got large advertisers signed on for big targeted campaigns, you need to be able to fulfill those campaign targets. If you’re lacking enough uniques to make the campaign a success, 2nd or 3rd party data may help you expand your targets.

It might seem counterintuitive to pay for data to make money. However, if you’ve got gaps in the data available, you may need to spend more upfront to be able to attract more visitors to your site. More visitors means more impressions, which means more people who see the ads.

4. Get More Subscribers

For subscription-based publishers, reducing churn is of utmost concern. And the key to keeping subscribers engaged is serving the content they want. You can use your DMP to access insights into the characteristics of the people who subscribe to your site. You might find that your regular readers have various interests in common, beyond what you would expect based on the content of your publication. Perhaps, for instance, you run an online golf magazine, so you know your readers are interested in golf. Your data might show you that large portions of your audience are also interested in fine wine, bowling or apparel. By offering content that fits your readers’ interests, you can keep them engaged and coming back for more. Alternatively, you can essentially become a marketer yourself by promoting your content to people who are most likely to engage. From the previous golf example, this might include targeting golf fans on wine sites or pages to bring them back to your pages.

5. Reducing Remnant Inventory

Ideally, you’re already selling all of your ad space as premium inventory. However, that often doesn’t happen. It’s possible, though, to convert more of your remnant inventory to premium, which leads to a substantial increase in ad revenue.  As the value of your ad space, and the value of your website as a whole, go up, your inventory will sell faster and for high prices. As a result, more of it will be considered premium.

Data is what drives this increase in value. With data, you can sell audiences rather than sections of your site and reach advertisers you wouldn’t otherwise sell to without audience data. This boosts the overall value of your site to advertisers and puts your ad space in higher demand, making it easier to sell ad space. As a result, you’re able to sell more space as premium rather than remnant.

6. Customizing Content

Your editorial team probably has a pretty good grasp on the type of content that performs best on your sites. And as the old saying goes: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But if you’re looking to keep visitors on your site longer, you’ll need to offer them content recommendations that match their interests, so that they can view more content and see more ads.

Once again, the data can guide you by revealing what kinds of content are performing the best with your audience. Your data will tell what a particular reader’s interests are, allowing you to show them content that deals with those interests. If they read a lot about fashion, for instance, you would serve them content related to fashion.

Data is powerful. And, if used correctly, it can help you increase your revenue, even without selling it directly. They key is understanding who your readers are, so you can serve them appropriately. Data is a powerful tool. Ensure that you are using it in every way possible to strengthen your revenue streams and improve your site overall.

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