Last week, I had the privilege and pleasure of attending FUSE: The Convergence of Media and Technology Summit in Philly. The unique format of the event was highly conducive to the exchange of ideas, large and small, that pertain to how publishers and media companies can drive their businesses forward. Though there are probably dozens of takeaways I could wax poetic about, here are my top three:
- Data is scorching hot.
In his opening keynote, conference chair Jeff Litvak dove into 10 trends affecting the industry and two of them – “personalization is in prime time” and “there’s gold in your first party data” – were just the first mentions of two omnipresent themes of the three-day summit. There is a voracious appetite among publishers to do more with data: collect more and make better use of data, but to do so in a scale-able way and not just for the sake of it. One of the attendees – the VP of product at a global newspaper – pointed out that you “have to focus on what you want to achieve in the new [digital] ecosystem” and then set the technology purchase, implementation, and execution from there. Data is clearly the fuel for the tech engines these publishers are building.
- Publishers are thinking about how what they do now sets them up for the future.
The scale of business transformation associated with technology, as well as the speed with which new solutions enter the market, can intimidate buyers and result in short-sighted or limited decisions that come back to haunt in no time. The conversations I had with attendees at FUSE were pragmatic, innovative, and self-aware – wanting to invest in technology that solved discrete problems but with an eye on where the trend driving that investment was headed in order to best prepare for future needs. It’s unfortunately rare to find an event that makes current circumstances feel like they can be tackled productively, while also energizing and helping to set a roadmap for the future. FUSE did that in spades, with terrific presentations by attendees to their peers about specific achievements in business intelligence, organizing for and building a modern tech stack, and the evolution of content. It was impossible to leave without concrete actions and inspiring ideas alike.
- B2C and B2B have important areas of overlap when it comes to data and tech objectives.
Business-to-consumer and business-to-business media companies were both represented at FUSE. There were clearly shared areas of interest, including:
1. Learning more about visitors, especially for both anonymous traffic and identifiable visitors; one B2C pub’s digital analyst told us that they “want to know more about their readers…their behaviors and interests” because their DMP data doesn’t provide that kind of first party insight.
2. Using data to personalize experiences in real time, particularly content recommendations. A different B2C attendee who works on the advertising and monetization side of the house explained the need to “keep readers engaged on the website through personalization” as well as “understand behaviors and actions in order to segment users on their value and determine experience accordingly.”
3. Integrating different sources of customer data and making it available to take action on. The head of digital for a B2B media company discovered the hard way that their investments in a database to integrate data has been 9x what they expected – and that non-analysts don’t understand the data output, rendering it essentially ineffective.
Where B2B and B2C didn’t necessarily align was in the method of the business objective, if not the nature of it: customer acquisition, for instance, is unique in form but not substance for the two. On the other hand, the influence of social media affects B2C very differently from B2B – a discussion point during the keynote panel, “The Trajectory of Media Technology.” Social’s impact on how humans interact – with content, with each other – will affect B2B buyer’s expectations somewhat more than change the content consumption model as radically as it has for B2C. Overall, though, the similarities were more evident in the discussions than the differences.
Congratulations and thanks to Matt & team for putting together an amazing event; already looking forward to the next one!