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How publishers are tackling the biggest audience data and analytics challenges: Report

“The amount of data created, captured, copied, and consumed around the world is forecasted to hit 175 zettabytes by 2025,” according to Piano, a subscription, analytics, and content personalization platform. 

“This trove of information stands to help publishers and the advertisers that work with them harness insights about current and prospective customers to power revenue and loyalty both now and in the future.”

“Lifeblood of the advertising and publishing ecosystem”

However, data on subscriptions, content engagement, ad revenue, and customer profiles, among others, are often siloed and scattered within organizations, notes a new report by Piano and Digiday. This makes collecting, storing, managing, and democratizing all of it for different teams challenging to say the least. 

Audience data and analytics are the lifeblood of the advertising and publishing ecosystem, allowing organizations to deliver relevant content to the right audiences. Although more data is available to organizations than ever before, executives continue to face significant obstacles in analyzing these resources and taking action on relevant insights.


The report, State of audience data and analytics, is based on surveys of more than 100 publisher and brand executives. The surveys sought to understand how they are navigating analytics challenges and opportunities.  

The top challenges in managing and using data

56% of the respondents said siloed data is their biggest barrier to successfully managing and using data at their organizations followed by the lack of interoperable systems (50%), and lack of resources to manage execution (48%). 

Source: State of audience data and analytics

The participants indicated restrictive structures and policies (43%), data that isn’t vetted (42%), and technology that limits data sharing (40%) as key reasons for the existence of data silos at their organizations.

Keeping data accurate, clean and consistent, is a huge challenge considering the abundant and never-ending supply of audience information. “There are a multitude of reasons for incorrect data,” says Andy Isaacs, Head of Data and Analytics at UKTV. “No matter how much you test and monitor changes, there will inevitably be incorrect data sets that slip through and get into production.” The broadcaster uses AI tools to identify potential errors but acknowledges it’s difficult to completely avoid incorrect data.

Insufficient tools for analysis and reporting (42%), lack of communication among teams/departments (41%), and incomplete or incorrect user first-party or zero-party data (39%) were cited among the top obstacles for ensuring clean, clear, and consistent data.

“It all goes back to that data model and knowing exactly what we’re looking for,” suggests Neal Cantle, Digital Audience Research Officer at RTÉ, Ireland’s public service broadcaster. “We want to make sure what comes out of the app has the same labeling rules as the website. Getting that labeling right is critical, as well as getting the correct data from our third-party partners and making sure it’s in the right format.” He adds that getting inputs from all departments in an organization helps keep data consistent and reliable.

Source: State of audience data and analytics

“Data governance should be the number one priority”

Organizations are working to improve and perfect data governance to achieve interoperability, the report notes. 

Data governance means being in control of the data a company has. Having data governance is important, not only to get good quality data and democratize it but also to respond to legal obligations concerning privacy. Given the evolution and acceleration of privacy legislation, data governance should be the number one priority.

Declan Owens, Digital Analytics Expert, Piano

Some organizations have hybrid data governance models, says Owens. They set up a “center of excellence” for testing and determining the extent to which they can extract value from their data. This team is expected to “propose a central data structure and tools to other teams at the organization,” he adds. “What’s great about this model is being able to align the whole company around the same goals.” 

The report recommends an analytics team to include people who have a refined understanding of data, audience measurement, and performance. Typically, a Chief data officer (CDO) oversees data governance and is responsible for getting projects approved and prioritized, managing the budget, and procuring staff for the governance program. 

“The foundation is data governance and making sure we are collecting the data that is required for our business needs,” says UKTV’s Isaacs. “By doing that, we have engaged all of our different end-users in the data collection process by consulting them and training them on what the use cases are. This allows them to know what to look for and spot any errors since they’ve been involved in the implementation.”

“The big vision”

Many are also relying on third-party technology partnerships to ensure comprehensive internal data interoperability, governance, and reliability. “The big vision is to have all of these datasets flowing together and the ability for them to merge,” says RTÉ’s Cantle. “We are working with various tech partners to do that.”

Source: State of audience data and analytics

“To create relevant experiences for consumers in the future,” the authors write, “a task bound to become more difficult due to expanding privacy laws and impending third-party cookie deprecation, today’s businesses are seeking audience analytics solutions integrated with comprehensive, end-to-end technology tools to ensure data flow, cleanliness and consistency. And they’re activating these tools by putting the right people in place to manage them across the various needs of different business units.”

In a future that prioritizes user preferences above all else, the organizations taking action to improve how data is used internally and, in turn, to create more engaging customer experiences, will be most successful.


The full report is available here:
State of audience data and analytics