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How Time, Inc. Uses Data to Deliver Better Content, Stronger ROI
An old media company is learning new tricks as Time overhauls its editorial and advertising operations through the use of granular data on video viewing.

Jen Wong, COO and president of digital at Time, Inc., talked with Streaming Media about how video content production and advertising reach is being driven by the data the company captures across its 100 media brands.

Q: From your roots as a subscription print magazine company to acquiring ad-tech company Viant, what does data acquisition mean to you?

Data is really important to our marketer clients and partners. They are trying to optimize their ROI in both content and advertising. Data is critical for them to understand 1) how good was their marketing, 2) what worked and how do I make it better, and 3) because we are a big direct-to-consumer company today we primarily use that marketing engine to sell magazines. Data is an integral part to the growth of that business as we take that marketing engine and apply it to products and services beyond print magazines. It’s an underlying platform across everything that we do.

Q: How has data changed the media industry?

There are “haves” and “have nots.”... Our belief is that deterministic, people-based data (where your activity is tracked across device, so when you log into Time magazine on desktop, tablet, phone, etc., your activity is captured), where you know Jen Wong’s email, her device graph (or a record of her activity across all the devices she is on), is more valuable [than cookie-based data].

We are a “have” for multiple reasons. We have 30 million actives, with cards on files, even more when you have our full historical subscriber list. With Viant, we have 250 million IDs. Put those together and we are one of the most data-rich media companies.

Then you have TV companies who have been wholesalers where you ride on other people’s network and they have never had to have a conversation with a consumer. Never had a credit card, never had to know who their end viewer was in great detail. Certainly never had to know them at the “Jen Wong email” level. I think in a world where the internet is forcing media businesses and directing media businesses to become more direct to consumer, that data is becoming more and more valuable.

Q: How is leveraging a data feedback loop making your company more agile?

What we’re doing as a company is becoming very metrics-driven. In some cases, it’s a bit of a cultural change. ... We’ve radically changed how we produce our core product, because our editors are deep in the data. They know exactly how their content performed every minute of every day. It’s fun to watch editors get competitive and be focused on it. ... In a very compressed time frame, Viant overnight can look at point-of-sale data to see what happen[ed] as a result of the campaign. It underpins everything we do. It’s changing how we work as a company and allowing us to adjust everything we do at a much faster rate.

Q: What surprises have data insights brought?

I can get down to the actual second-by-second view of how somebody is watching my video and know that as soon as I flash this piece of text on screen, it spikes. That word is clearly what my users like. That kind of granularity and immediacy is surprising even to our creative teams. I think unlocking that has provided pleasant surprises in what kind of tools they can use to help drive [the] audience.

Q: What are popular metrics you measure for video?

We look at views [and] view depth—minutes spent in a video, how far do they go—[and] we are looking at overall completion rates. We are looking very carefully at where they are watching video. We are also looking at [how] video by video, you can actually see things like when is the falloff. ... We do a fair amount of live, and in live you’re looking at concurrent views and you can see when you make a change in your programming what exactly happens, pretty immediately. We are not only watching the overall numbers, but at an individual asset level also.

Q: What about ad blockers?

I think it’s a bigger problem abroad than in the U.S. We looked at all the market solutions. I think it’s a game of whack-a-mole, because if someone is intent on doing this, they’ll just continue at it. Fortunately, it hasn’t been accelerating for us. Ultimately if we had to, we would just serve [ads] ourselves. If the day came where it was a pandemic problem, we are prepared from a technology perspective to cover it ourselves and serve directly. Right now my level of concern for it is not super high.

Q: Is video data capture standardized across properties?

A lot of the capture is around the player, versus the page, so we have moved to one global player across our network that sits on all of our sites. Plus it’s syndicated, so we have a central view.

Time, Inc. is one of the most data-rich media companies, says Jen Wong, the company’s COO and president of digital.

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