Hearst and Condé Nast build their data teams, as data becomes increasingly important to publishers


In the last few months, Hearst has brought on new talent responsible for data: Adam Harris, Hearst’s VP of data products for Hearst Magazines Digital Media, joined the company in May 2017. In this role, Harris is responsible for building and implementing data products across Hearst Magazines Digital Media, that are premium and perform for the goals of Hearst’s clients. He also develops methods to offer metrics to advertisers that prove branded content moves readers from brand awareness into consideration in the funnel. “More specifically,” he explained, “my focus since joining the organisation has been developing an offering that allows Hearst Magazines to leverage its understanding of its digital content and growing knowledge of users to offer better targeting of media for its advertising partners.”

Marketers and advertisers are asking for publishers to have and deliver premium, beautiful products that perform well. The more publishers know about their audiences, the more value they can bring to advertisers, he said.

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In response, Hearst puts data to use. Hearst Magazines Digital Media’s portfolio of brands’ audience and the data they have, is significant, with unique profiles on more than 140 million digital consumers who engage with HMDM brands. The publisher uses and collects data to gain more insight about its readers to inform content strategy, product decision and placements across their portfolio. Harris and his team help connect content with the audience targets and products.

Harris believes publishers can create unique value for advertisers at the intersection of content, people, and client products. “We use reader insights to target the most relevant advertising to consumers and connect them to the products and solutions that they’re looking for,” he explained. “For example, if an article is about spring trench coats, and we know from our data gathering that the reader shops fast fashion brands, we will surface products that will most likely drive them to take the next action.”

Hearst’s content to commerce strategy “is designed to move consumers further down the purchasing funnel and we are doing a number of things to both improve the commercial impact of content and track the results,” Harris explained.

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“Across our brands, we’ve integrated the ability to add SKU level product, pricing and availability data into content through our proprietary platform, MedisOS. In addition, we’ve learned how to make content that creates transactions through years of honing our affiliate commerce efforts and have developed a brilliant branded content studio that combines aspiration and action.”

Harris explained that they influence hundreds of millions of dollars of purchases across Hearst brands every month and, increasingly, their ability to do this is becoming trackable.   “With our content to commerce strategy, we see consumers engaging on a deeper level –  which ultimately results in sales. We’re seeing success in retail and apparel, driving both online sales and in store conversions,” he said.

Condé Nast

Condé Nast has also been investing in data, with the acquisition of Lighthouse Datalab in the last couple of weeks, building on its data science capabilities. Lighthouse Datalab was a data solutions firm that focused on extracting actionable insights from client data to provide value for its clients. Its founder, Sriram Subramanian, was named head of data science at Condé Nast, and will be leading the company’s data science efforts.

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Acquiring the firm and appointing Subramanian to lead Condé Nast’s data team enhances the team, and helps the company leverage its data to provide better solutions for partners, consumers and content creators, said Karthic Bala, head of data strategy for Condé Nast. “The new additions will enable us to accelerate our plan of becoming a data first organisation,” Bala said. “We have always led in our influence. Using data science will enable us to use this influence to drive consumer engagement and marketing performance.”

Marketers and advertisers are asking for data-driven intelligent marketing, he explained. “Basically that means: use data to find the right customer and provide us actionable intelligence to optimize our campaigns. Our Spire platform enables us to do just that and prove ROI.”

Last month, Condé Nast announced it had expanded its data capabilities with the evolution of Spire, a precision audience targeting platform, aimed at connecting advertisers to audiences at crucial moments. “Spire gives us the ability to follow consumers through every stage of the purchase journey, and we can directly connect advertisers with the consumers they’re most interested in, at the earliest point of their purchasing decisions–when they’re discovering what they want to buy through our content,” said Pamela Drucker Mann, Condé Nast’s chief revenue and marketing officer, in a release.

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It’s all part of a data collection and collation strategy that collect information on consumers interacting with Condé Nast brands and what their preferences are, Bala explained. “We also partner with leading data organisations to further enhance our understanding of the consumer, thereby enabling us to drive higher performance. Using predictive modeling we can also personalise the user experience to provide the right content, to the right user at the right time.”

In 2018, a data strategy is vital to publishers, as it enables analysis, insights, predictive and prescriptive models to create better user experience and engagement and at the same time deliver better products and value for clients, Bala explained.


For publishers looking to increase their investment in data collection, data science and data collection strategies, look to leaders in the field like Hearst and Condé Nast.

Having a data science team to support a publisher’s brands will help publishers translate their knowledge of their audience and consumers into actionable insights, Condé Nast’s Bala said.

“This enables them to deliver better engagement with the content as well as more relevant advertising,” Bala said. “Data science also enables publishers to optimise delivery of messages to increase performance. In general, a data science group enables you to do everything better and helps to deliver the maximum value to your customers and consumers.”

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Having a data collection strategy is increasingly important for publishers today, Harris said. But it’s not one size fits all. “At Hearst, we have a large enough footprint, with sites that are covering a wide range of topics, to leverage our audiences directly; we’re able to mine data to create insights that are differentiated from other data sources; and we have a high appetite for absorbing all the data we’re collecting and creating new tools and best-practices to build on our audiences from disparate sources,” he said. “If you don’t have these three key criteria, it might be better to look toward third parties or your advertisers to bring their own data assets to any given campaign.”

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