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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

Digital media game-changers: winning strategies from an unlikely source

September 18, 2023 | By Guyanne Lufrano, People & Partnerships – Switchboard Software@switchboardsoft

The digital media landscape is experiencing a seismic shift, marked by a constant flux of information and the increasing demands of a data-driven market. Meanwhile, publishing executives are faced with an impossible dilemma: while industry-wide layoffs erode valuable human resources, data engineering teams are grappling with the Herculean task of managing an exponentially increasing deluge of data with fewer resources and more time pressure. In the face of an industry wide decline in traffic, the stakes are higher than ever. How can we solve the conundrum of having unprecedented access to an [expensive] overabundance of data, but a shortage of effective ways to harness and monetize it?

In an era where data complexity meets resource constraints, the most savvy media leaders are winning the market. What’s their secret? Recognizing this age-old dilemma as a golden opportunity to outpace their competition with two game-changing HR strategies: automation and outsourcing. Automation frees your team from mundane tasks and expedites the assessment of analytics that drive market leadership. Outsourcing offers agile scalability while ensuring data quality, allowing you to focus on revenue-generating KPIs. These aren’t quick fix band-aid solutions; they’re transformative levers for operational excellence and market differentiation.

By leveraging these strategies, you can evolve from being data-swamped to becoming an insights-driven powerhouse, turning challenges into scalable opportunities for growth. Don’t just survive the digital deluge—navigate it to seize a competitive edge. Your career and your organization depend on it.

The data dilemma: too much and not enough

Data, once a scarce resource, is now an overwhelming flood. The digital footprints left by users on web pages, social media platforms, and e-commerce sites create a plethora of opportunities for insights and business decisions. But the richness of this data is a double-edged sword. It can impede more than it enables if not managed effectively.

Consider this: The task of measuring CPH performance or compiling sitewide inventory forecasts can tie up operational teams for days. By the time these forecasts are complete, the insights are already on their way to becoming outdated. In an industry where real-time decision-making is critical, this lag is untenable.

Making data work for you: the automation advantage

Automation is not a new concept, but its application in solving the data logjam is revolutionary. One industry leader, a global news publisher, found a compelling use case in reducing the time spent on CPH reporting. With a well-configured, automated DataOps platform, the time required for these reports shrunk from up to 4 hours to as little as 20 minutes. 

But this isn’t just about speed; it’s about transformation. An 80% reduction in manual reporting time enabled a threefold increase in the frequency of reporting and a fivefold increase in the granularity of the data. With automation taking over routine data compilation and analysis, time and focus can shift to higher-value aspects like interpreting data in the market context or innovating on revenue generation methods.

Scaling with complexity: the outsourcing solution

Automation is just one part of the solution. As organizations expand, either organically or through acquisitions, their data infrastructure often struggles to keep pace. One digital media titan chose to tackle this challenge through outsourcing. By opting for a “buy vs build” scenario, they saved six months of development and data preparation while achieving several key milestones:

Process optimization:  Using a single source of truth for revenue reporting across 40 brands, 20 partners, and over 200 data streams, the internal Revenue Analytics team was able to focus on generating insights and strategic decision-making.

Reliability and governance: Continual monitoring of data quality with standard alerts for anomalies, outages, or inadvertent data corruption mitigates the risk of data corruption and/or human error.

Scalability: Even after a 200% data volume increase due to an acquisition, the outsourcing solution scaled effortlessly, with no loss of speed or data quality.

Strategic reallocation: human resources in the age of automation and outsourcing

Perhaps the most significant impact of automation and outsourcing is on human resources. Employees who were tied up with menial tasks can now contribute in more strategic, higher-impact roles. This reallocation is not just an operational shift but a strategic one, enabling teams to transition from data janitors to data strategists and scientists. 

Key takeaways and next steps

As we move toward an increasingly data-driven digital future, it’s vital for both companies and employees to adapt and evolve. For organizations willing to adopt automation and leverage outsourcing, a few steps can guide the transition:

  1. Assess core needs: Conduct an internal audit to identify processes that can benefit from automation or outsourcing.
  1. Run pilot tests: Before full implementation, pilot programs can help evaluate the effectiveness of these solutions.
  1. Choose the right partners: When outsourcing, vet third-party vendors rigorously to ensure they align with your operational needs and data security requirements.
  1. Develop a reallocation plan: Strategically redeploy human resources in areas that will benefit from human intelligence and creativity.
  1. Monitor and adjust: An ongoing assessment mechanism should be in place to measure performance improvements, data accuracy, and overall ROI from these strategies.

Automation and outsourcing are not just tools for operational efficiency, they’re strategic assets. Through their thoughtful deployment, publishers can transform existing challenges into opportunities for innovation and long-term growth. In an age where data is plentiful but time and talent are scarce, leveraging these strategies offers a way to survive and thrive. 

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