3 Strategies for Data Products
Build a profitable path to diversifying publisher revenue.
Customer and audience frustrations are fertile ground for new revenue opportunities. Sometimes it’s easy to map those frustrations to a new data product or service, and sometimes you hit a brick wall. When that happens, it helps to get outside your comfort zone to find solutions.
1. Generate Data From Scratch
Here’s a real example: A data publisher supplies data about a certain commodity to the financial industry. They identified a need for real-time data about shipments of this commodity into and out of U.S. ports, but the buyers and sellers closely guarded the information and would not sell it.
Undeterred, the publisher set up webcams at all major U.S. ports and used some simple software to assess shipment volumes based on how high in the water the ships rode. That company has created a proprietary data product that is sold at a premium to commodities traders who use this data daily.
This "brute force" approach might seem a bit unrealistic for most of us, but it shouldn’t. There is still plenty of opportunity to build new data products by going out and grabbing data that nobody has bothered to get yet, and then presenting it in a way that’s immediately useful to someone.
2. Create Mashups
There is also revenue to be mined from simply packaging or combining data to make it more useful or compelling. If you want to capture some of this revenue, you should do it quickly, because there are few barriers to competition. Someone is going to beat you to it or the government is already doing it well enough that it’s not worth trying to monetize.
Case in point: How do I find an unbiased, detailed evaluation of rehab facilities near my elderly parents’ home? There are several commercial operations that have tried to make a go of this, but this Medicare site is better than any of them. That’s because the ratings data is generated directly from government inspections of the facilities, and even the government is now figuring out how to present data usefully to consumers.
A bigger example of this kind of disintermediation is how Google has obliterated traditional b-to-b directories and buyers guides. There is a way to transform some of these into data products someone is willing to pay for, but it’s an uphill slog.
3. Leverage Your Existing Data
Do you do a "Top 10" or "Top 100" projects, products or technologies? Many awards programs can support a data product spin-off.
Does your editorial coverage regularly include industry statistics and information your readers see as competitive intelligence? If so, and assuming you don’t cover financial services, energy or pharma, there is likely an opportunity for you to create a data product, and to explicitly blend that with your editorial coverage. Done correctly, editorial can be the marketing funnel for a data product or services. Skift CEO Rafat Ali has some interesting thoughts on this concept. Wardsauto.com is a good example of this paradigm.
Data product opportunities don’t last forever, and those willing to roll up their sleeves and map the way forward are far more likely to capture the bulk of the profit potential.