“Personalization is not just about contextual relevance,” said Hearst Magazines advisor Michael Dugan at Wednesday’s FUSE Media Forum on the Pursuit of Personalization. “It’s about truly understanding your audience.” That statement perfectly captures the tenor of the discussions held at the executive summit in New York City.
At the FUSE Media Forum, publishing leaders explained how they employ personalization technology to serve related stories to readers, but also to create paid, personalized products, build more effective email campaigns, and sell ads at higher CPMs. The uses for personalization are as rich and diverse as the data publishers collect about their audiences.
Following are five ways that executives from Hearst Magazines, ALM, Fast Company, and Haymarket Media are using personalization to meet their business goals.
1. Optimize Email Campaigns
During a keynote panel, both Gene Bishop, VP of technology at ALM, and Joshua Storch, senior director of email & data operations at Haymarket Media, said that personalization was key to improving email outreach for events and improving clickthrough to their sites. “Our theory was that if we could target a smaller audience, we’d lessen the number of opt-outs and we could get better results,” explained Bishop. For one event, ALM dropped the email list down from over 20,000 names to roughly 2,000. “The clickthrough rate soared,” said Bishop. “Our leads increased our open rates were 600% more effective.”
2. Create a More Effective Paywall
The paywall can be personalized, said PostUp CEO Tony D’Anna during a presentation on email’s role in personalization. He believes in the near future, more publishers will embrace a “hybrid premium” meter, where readers are able to access a certain amount of premium content for free before hitting an email subscription or paywall.
Publishers can customize what type of premium content different readers can access and how soon the paywall will rise. The goal is to create the experience that optimizes the number of paid subscriptions publishers can capture and minimize the amount of ad dollars lost from making that subscription offer.
3. Personalize Products
Bishop said that ALM is analyzing readers’ topic interests to create paid products across its different verticals of law, insurance, and real estate. ALM has begun exploring topics that might interest certain groups across these properties and combining existing content or rewriting content to create personalized, paid products.
Remixing content like this allows ALM to take articles that previously served an audience of just 2 million lawyers and expand it to an audience of 6 million real estate and insurance professionals and entice them to pay, explained Bishop.
Steve Suthiana, global head of digital media and operations at Fast Company and Inc., hopes to provide paid, personalized products in the near future. He envisions a personalized application based on the Inc. 5000, a ranking of the fastest growing private companies in the U.S. The app could connect potential investors with companies that best match their investing goals and interests.
4. Sell Ads at Higher CPMs
Personalization is helping Haymarket Media’s clients deploy more impactful ads, said Storch. “We’re ready to pivot to a conversation where the client doesn’t do run-of-site ads or a block of the audience. Salespeople can convince these clients to pay two times the dollar amount to reach a quarter of the normal size audience, but they’ll be able to drive more revenue as a result.”
Storch added that personalized ad sales are still nascent, but that he expects this will open up more inventory for Haymarket Media’s sites and sell that inventory at a more premium price.
5. Customize the Reading Experience Based on Format
Readers prefer certain content topics, and they have preferences around content format too, said Dugan. “We’re using personalization to identify whether a consumer tends toward certain types of content like video, photo galleries, or articles. Once you know this, you can start recommending things and path them toward higher value content.”
Ultimately, Dugan hopes to serve more readers that want video content and increase video engagement. That is beneficial for Hearst because video typically has higher CPMs.
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