Ascending the data maturity pyramid: A strategic imperative for news publishers

By:  Peter Doucette, Senior Managing Director, Mather Economics

News publishers today face a significant challenge: transforming their business model to grow and monetize their digital audience.  However, publishers can harness the potential of their vast individual digital data sets to effectively transform their business model if they embrace a structured and methodical path. The Data Maturity Pyramid is the most crucial business model tool for publishers to frame and build their transformation and ultimately monetize and grow their digital audience. Let’s explore each level of the pyramid and underscore the importance of progression in order.

Level 1 – Stable Infrastructure: Building the Bedrock

At the base of the pyramid lies the foundational level of Stable Infrastructure. News publishers must consolidate their data into a centralized repository, eliminating the chaos of disparate sources. A unified storage system enables efficient data management and mitigates the unnecessary external data storage costs associated with lax retention policies. Establishing stability in data infrastructure is the crucial first step toward transforming raw data into meaningful insights.

Level 2 – Fast and Easy Access: Unlocking Efficiency

With a solid foundation in place, publishers ascend to Level 2 – Fast and Easy Access. An enterprise-wide data repository is valuable only if users can access it swiftly and efficiently. Developing tight and efficient queries becomes imperative, optimizing both time and costs. Streamlining access ensures that the wealth of data becomes a readily available resource for decision-makers within the news organization.

Level 3 – Data Governance: Overcoming Challenges

Data Governance poses a significant challenge for publishers at Level 3. Achieving standard definitions and rules for managing audience, content, subscribers, and advertising data is essential. News organizations often waste valuable time reconciling dashboards and arguing over metrics at this stage. Establishing a robust data governance process lays the groundwork for a more cohesive and streamlined data landscape.


Level 4 – Business Intelligence Tooling and Dashboards: Crafting Insightful Narratives

At Level 4, publishers confront challenges related to the consistency and actionability of information within their dashboards. The proliferation of dashboards that slice the same data points in various ways can hinder the extraction of strategic and tactical insights. Streamlining business intelligence tooling enhances the clarity and effectiveness of decision-making, paving the way for more informed strategies.

Level 5 – Experiments: Driving Growth Through Innovation

After navigating the first four levels, publishers reach a crucial juncture at Level 5– Experiments. Robust experimentation becomes the catalyst for driving audience and revenue growth. Publishers are encouraged to develop a comprehensive experimentation plan, focusing on A|B and other tests over a defined period. Clear success criteria are vital for extracting actionable insights and refining strategies efficiently.

Level 6 – Data Science | Artificial Intelligence: Unleashing Unmatched Power

The pinnacle of the Data Maturity Pyramid is Level 6 – Data Science | Artificial Intelligence (AI). While the power of these tools to process and synthesize online behavioral data is virtually unmatched, it’s important to note that very few publishers are currently positioned to leverage these tools fully. Publishers who successfully navigate the data maturity pyramid will optimize data science, and AI will grow digital audiences, improve user engagement, increase subscription and advertising revenue, and reduce operational inefficiencies through streamlined data analysis.

In Conclusion:

For news publishers, ascending the Data Maturity Pyramid is not just a journey; it’s a strategic imperative. Progressing through each level in order is essential to build a strong and resilient foundation for the subsequent stages. Jumping ahead prematurely may lead to a weak structure, inefficiencies, and missed opportunities. When publishers ascend to the top of the pyramid, they reach their full potential through the growth and monetization of their digital audience and the successful transformation of their business model.

Further Reading:

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