Proprietary technology development is not limited to just the big publishers. The build-or-buy question is a perennial one that small to mid-market publishers make as well. And for one that decided on the build option, the results have gone much better than expected.
GIE Media, a B2B publisher targeting multiple markets such as recycling, energy and golf course maintenance, has built its home-grown audience development and circulation fulfillment platform into a subscription-based data product that’s used by its advertisers.
More recently, it’s been licensed by ADS Global, an audience development services provider, which is now further customizing the platform for other publishers to use. Vendome Healthcare Media is one of its first customers.
"Back in 2011 we decided to abandon our traditional off-the-shelf software, which was over-priced and under-performing, and designed our own internal system we call iSIRC," says Marco Urbanic, director of integrated data at GIE Media. "It’s an audience development and circulation fulfillment platform coupled with a front-end product called Target Market Intelligence."
That front-end component is the key ingredient. While the core database is capable of marrying data compiled from the full spectrum of product platforms in real time—web engagement, event attendance, print audience, webinars and so on—TMI’s interface allows the business team controlled access to the data to wade through and perform queries on demographics for sales clients.
GIE quickly discovered another opportunity to extend the availability of the TMI front end. "We didn’t do this to license it, but when we were finished, everyone who saw it said they could use it," says Urbanic.
The company began licensing TMI to advertising clients who pay a monthly subscription fee for access to GIE audience data. "Advertisers can log in via a web browser, select a targeted list of people and download it for mail or email. It’s supposed to be a target market. If it’s a blast, well that’s just a list rental. But if they want to do a specific, targeted campaign, that’s where TMI comes into play," says Urbanic.
That activity has been a key ROI component—Urbanic says GIE invested between $250,000 to $500,000 on the project, which took almost 15 months to fully implement.
ADS Global took notice when GIE spun off a separate data company, GIE Data Solutions. GIE didn’t necessarily want to get into the customer service and customization work, and ADS was attracted for exactly those reasons. The company now builds bespoke iSIRC solutions for publisher clients.
"The reason we decided to license it is because we can customize it," says Heidi Spangler, ADS Global’s vice president. "The knowledge that we have combined with the software creates a customized solution so you don’t have to settle for things that you don’t want or need."
Vendome needed a solution that would help supplement decreasing display advertising. "With print in decline across the B2B industry, we were looking for alternatives to make up that lost revenue," says Mark Fried, Vendome’s president.
ADS, who had been providing other services to Vendome, suggested licensing the iSIRC software. The custom approach that Spangler mentioned resulted in VALET, a system with a similar code base to GIE’s but with new features and functionality behind a Vendome-branded product.
While the fully integrated marketing database has helped Vendome build out its event assets and audience, the company is embarking on a similar data subscription strategy as GIE.
"Traditional B2B models are all product-focused—print, events and so on," says Fried. "But VALET disintermediates our audience from our products. You don’t have to go through our products to get to our audience. The best way to see our audience is to go into our database and see it. I want to give our clients access to that data to see how our audience interacts with our products."
It’s a bit of a radical notion for Vendome. Fried points out that even as publishers have invested so much into their audience data collection and management, they’ve always held it close to the vest. "We’ve all invested heavily in data and what I’m saying is let’s make that investment worth something."
Fried says this approach "totally cannibalizes" email list rental, but it’s "more useful and [lucrative]."
Vendome is positioning VALET as a high-end subscription product, selling 3- to 6-month subscription commitments to its audience data.
In addition to traditional demographic metrics and company and title data, VALET offers data on topics of interest, event attendance and other engagement-oriented metrics. Demographic data can also be seen on a market level and presented in a graphical view.
It ultimately comes down to data quality—selling lists is one thing, selling engagement and segmentation is another. "People are looking for a way to monetize data," says Ron McKay, CEO of ADS Global. "We’re not necessarily providing access for people to pull lists, but to look at the data and see what’s unique about it. Everyone is much more focused on targeting and quality and capturing that. A product like VALET allows a media company the rewards of showing what they’ve spent years compiling."