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What is Your Audience REALLY Worth?

What’s the point of having an “audience”?

If it’s to sell that audience as faceless, nameless ears and eyes in bulk to advertisers, then you may be missing the boat.

From trend prognosticator Mike Walsh:

I’ve been predicting for some time now that marketing departments will start to look more like forex trading desks chasing audience traffic, and that media companies will need to get serious about mining audience data if they are going to survive. One of the first manifestations of this trend is the rise of audience buying. WPP Group has announced the launch of Xaxis, which is designed to operate as a data management platform. The company will collect audience information from a wide array of online and offline channels in order to build a vast database of potential customers. While they still see a place for buying advertising on media properties for co-branding purposes – essentially they plan to use technology and trading relationships with ad networks to harvest specific types of buyers regardless of their actual media consumption behavior. Big Media should interpret this as the warning that it represents to their core business. Forget paywalls and piracy lawsuits – aggregating audiences should be your primary focus, and in the 21st century, that means deep data not circulation audits.

“That means deep data not circulation audits.”

In other words, data deeper than age, sex, ethnicity, and the amount of time I might spend listening to your radio station.

Let’s face it, a given radio station’s audience is an artificial abstract, a by-product of the media solutions at hand.  An advertiser isn’t technically interested in a Rock listener, after all.  He’s interested in someone who drinks a particular variety of beer or who prefers a particular car model or who is shopping for a new tech gadget or whatever.

In other words, the variables of greatest interest to advertisers exist across station audiences not within them.  This has always been true, of course.  But until recently the ability to unlock that data has been blocked by the absence of that data.  Thanks to social media and the Internet, a new day dawns.

The move toward audience buying as part of behavioral targeting has been accelerating the last few years. The idea—and the threat to publishers—is that shoppers for food, cars, packaged goods and every other category are available all over the web, and if you can find those specific consumers you want to reach with your ad message, why not do that instead of buying space on a website as if it were a magazine or a newspaper or a TV station. WPP’s pitch to advertisers is simple: By reaching only the most relevant audiences through a range of display advertising, mobile ads, video ads and paid social media, “Xaxis delivers dramatically improved performance at lower cost than other industry solutions.”

The value of our audiences will be directly proportional to the value of the information we have about those audiences as individuals.

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