Should Content Publishers Pay for Audience Data?

audience data spreadsheetAs 2012 nears completion, “data” continues to be the hottest topic among content publishers — getting data, analyzing data, using data. Jeff John Roberts of Gigaom asks, “Should publishers invest in audience data?”

Before you run out and invest in the latest and greatest audience data tool, make sure it’s the right decision. You might just be wasting your money.

Roberts explains that whether or not content publishers invest in audience data depends completely on each publisher’s audience and goals. This is not a one-size-fits all question, and no single answer will fit every publisher. Remember what we all heard from our parents as kids, “Just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t mean you should do it, too.”

The Bigger the Publisher, The Greater the Need for Audience Data

While it’s true that analyzing audience data can help publishers create better targeted content, attract more advertisers, and charge higher rates for ad space. If your top goals are growing your audience and making more money through ad sales, then audience data should be very important to you. Roberts explains that audience data is particularly useful to large publishers that attract a lot of visitors as well as large numbers of advertisers that want to get in front of very specific audience segments.

The Broader the Audience, the Greater the Need for Audience Data

Roberts also suggests that publishers which attract general audiences have a greater need for audience data than niche sites. Again, advertisers typically want to connect with small segments of an audience. If a publisher can prove through audience data that investing in ad space on the publisher’s site will drive positive ROI for an advertiser, than it’s far more likely that the advertiser will purchase ad space on the site.

Should You Pay for Audience Data?

Ask yourself three questions before you invest in a pricey audience data tool:

  1. Is there a need for audience data based on your content publishing goals?
  2. Is your site very large with a huge audience?
  3. Does your content attract a broad, general audience?

If you answered “yes” to each of these questions, then you should consider investing in audience data. Just be sure to weigh the costs and benefits against other investments that you’ll have to forgo, such as hiring more writers, enhancing site functionality, design upgrades, and so on. Make sure the benefits of paying for audience data outweigh both the monetary and opportunity costs.

Finally, if you do invest in audience data, make sure you have someone on your team who can accurately analyze that data and provide useful advice and strategic direction based on ongoing analysis. All the data in the world won’t help you if it’s not analyzed correctly and effectively translated into actionable information.

Image: lustfish

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