The major French media are embarking on the battle of the data, you should too!

Last week was rich in announcements for French media with the announcement of the upcoming launch of two initiatives common to several major players in the press. Two excellent initiatives that lead to a simple question: why did not they react earlier? The hegemony of Google, Facebook and major platforms is such that one is entitled to wonder if it is already too late … And the worst thing in this story is that the question is also valid for advertisers. It is therefore high time for you to seriously consider the implementation of a major “data” project.

A solution to fight the hegemony of Google and Facebook

Nobody is supposed to ignore the dominance of Google and Facebook as sources of traffic, on average 40 to 50% of incoming traffic to a site ( Lifestyle Audiences Live on Facebook, Technology Readers Still Want Google Search ). A trend that we have seen for a few years now and which is only intensifying, even in Europe ( Is Google or Facebook the main traffic source for publishers? ). A trend that is not likely to be reversed as uses are shifted to smartphones, where Facebook and Google reign as masters and publishers accelerate the movement by exploiting new platforms ( WhatsApp rises as a major force in news media ).

I had already addressed the subject in 2015 ( The advent of content platforms and the revenge of syndication ) with the launch of native articles ( Instant Articles at Facebook, Accelerated Mobile Pages at Google). If at the time publishers saw a solution to boost their visibility, they quickly disappointed so much their audience was vampirized by these two platforms ( The Guardian is getting 60 percent of its Google mobile traffic from AMP ). And since then, the situation has become more complex with the rise of disturbances ( Snapchat: the hijacker of Silicon Valley which upsets the media ) and with the worsening of the problem of fake news, thus loss of confidence of the Net surfers.

The tension has still mounted a notch with the announcement by Google’s Digital News Initiative to fund up to 800 K € a large-scale experiment in automated content writing local ( Google is funding the creation of software that writes local news stories ). Groups!

In a word like a hundred: it sucks, to death …

No, the robots are not going to replace the journalists (maybe some freelance work, but it’s negligible). What is, on the other hand, is very worrying, it is the fact that Google and Facebook collect today the major part of the advertising revenues (between 60% and 75% according to the markets). This phenomenon is not new, it has already been explained and commented ( What Killed The Newspapers? Google Gold or Gold? …? ).

But talking about it does not solve the problem for publishers who see their advertising revenues decline every year ( Google and Facebook nowadays, and in the World Combined ). There are many factors to consider in explaining this erosion, but I think I’m right in saying that the two factors that have contributed the most to the establishment of this duopoly are the uninterrupted growth of Google’s audience – Facebook, and the shift to programmatic purchasing patterns.

If Facebook and Google are so popular with advertisers, it is that they represent an easy solution by offering both a large audience and simple advertising solutions, but sophisticated. A winning combination against which publishers could not fight in isolation.

The “Airbus of the data”

It is with great curiosity that I witnessed last week the announcement of the creation of an alliance among many French publishers (see the report published here: Alliance Gravity, L’union fit the data ).

To summarize a long explanation: the data is the raw material of advertising agencies. More data = better CPM. Data has become a key issue for the media, which has decided to join forces to reach critical mass and offer advertisers one-stop shopping. The Gravity Alliance is therefore made up of numerous national publishers (Les Echos, Lagardère, Challenge, Condé Nast, Le Parisien, Prisma Media …), local publishers (Le Télégramme, La Montagne, Sud Ouest …), service providers (SoLoCal), an operator (SFR) and commercial sites (Fnac-Darty). The objective was to create a common platform where are aggregated a dozen billion data every month, collected from a hundred media.

The promise to advertisers is to offer an alternative to the accuracy of Google, the power of Facebook or the creativity of Snapchat. For the moment, the Alliance announces a daily reach of 44% (ie the ability to reach 44 out of 100 users every day), which should increase as more partners join the Alliance. You will note that similar initiatives already existed in France (La Place Média, Audience Square …) and in Europe (eg Emetriq in Germany), but this one has an even stronger ambition.

Two days after this announcement, it was the turn of the Le Figaro and Le Monde newspapers to announce the launch of an equivalent initiative: Le Figaro and Le Monde launched Skyline, a direct digital advertising marketplace. The justification for this second initiative is the same: fight against GAFA, Google and Facebook and particular, and platforms in general.

You will understand: the major French publishers are embarking on an arms race to keep pace with Google and Facebook. At the heart of this battle: data, which allows to target Internet users according to their profile (eg sex, age, level of education and income …), their behavior (eg hunter good deals), their interests (eg food, DIY …), their intention to buy (eg change of car or TV), their moments of life (ex: marriage, birth of a child, divorce, retirement…). The more the partners of a group are diversified and the more the profiles are varied. The denser the content, the richer the targeting data. This explains these two initiatives: pooling data to revalue the advertising inventory.

You could tell me that these alliances are useless if you install a banner blocker (which prevents the display of the banner, but also the collection of data). And I would say that there are internal initiatives like Prisma Media with MyAdFilter, a fair advertising filter. These alliances would make it much easier to deploy solutions like this on a large scale and begin to address constructively the problem of saturation advertising.

Data is a strategic asset for the major media, as for advertisers

So … the big French media unite to increase their chances of survival thanks to the data. If one can not really envisage an alliance of the same type on customer data, the data is nonetheless an essential raw material for advertisers, as well to improve the targeting of advertising ( If you want to deliver ads, you’ve gotten to get better at using data ), than to improve loyalty ( Data at the heart of CRM strategies ), the impact of publications ( The Hack: Having a Media Company Mentality ) or the relevance of artificial intelligences ( The importance of data, and humans, for machine learning ).

It is in the interest of advertisers to help them improve the collection, processing, and exploitation of their data, before the GAFAs do it for them, for a commission of course. Some talk about “Google tax” or “Amazon tax”. I would rather call it “take a position on a vacant place” because it is clear that the data is still largely underutilized: The data seen by French advertisers.

The study published by Quantcast is thus revealing the situation for many advertisers: the data is there, available, but not really exploited. We can thus see that the data are mainly used to make geographic segmentation.

It is therefore absurd to note that some publishers prefer to use Facebook or Google data than internal data because they are more reliable and easily accessible in their advertising platform. This is contributing to the increased reliance on Google and Facebook, especially as lawmakers are at risk of cutting the clutter of outside data providers ( Third Party Data: Chronicle of an Announced Death ).

More than ever, advertisers are under pressure to launch a major data-driven project in order to build an ambitious technical platform to transform the potential of data-marketing. Unfortunately, this means assembling a number of technological bricks and stacking many hosted services in order to have an overview of customer data and make them accessible to different tools ( The five layers of Marketing Data Technology: Backbone, Discovery, Delivery, Activation, and Automation ).

The promise is beautiful, but do not be fooled: the best tools on the market will not deliver their full potential without the right skills and without a true culture of data disseminated to all layers of the decision-making pyramid ( Five building blocks of a data-driven culture ).

In summary: to survive the threat of the GAFA, it will be necessary to attack them on their ground (data) and acquire skills, tools, culture … all this requires time and pedagogy. It is not too late, the battle has just begun for the major publishers, they show the way, you to inspire you to build convictions.