While the importance of analytics has been sweeping into all the major industries, media remains one of its prominent users. Whether it is for creating a connection with the viewers, predicting audience interest or content monetisation, media companies are vouching big time on analytics and big data. Analytics India Magazine caught up with Amit Gupta, Head, Strategy and New Revenue Development, Hindustan Times, one of the leading media companies in the country today, to understand how analytics play a role at the company.
Adorning 11 years of varied experience in corporate strategy, revenue management, branding, content strategy and more, he believes that data analytics is becoming far more integral to business operations across most industries and this holds true equally, perhaps more for media and entertainment organisations.
Analytics changing the media and entertainment landscape
According to Gupta, when it comes to media and entertainment sector, data analytics adds immense value at both sides of its value chain— audience at one end and business partners at the other end. “On the audience side as an industry, it’s going through a paradigm shift with the burgeoning options that a consumer has— be it in terms of the mediums of consumption (print, digital, OTT, mobile, OOH, radio, cinema, live streaming etc. to name some) and multiplicity of options within each of them”, he said.
So how is media industry evolving in terms of adoption of analytics? “If, as an organisation, one were to focus on having a ‘loyal audience’, it needs a shift in focus from from eye-balls to conversation, from acquisition to engagement, from quantum to involvement etc. etc. This leans back heavily on delivery of high-quality content and that too on a sustainable basis. Thus, consumer analytics is emerging as a critical strategy component to efficiently develop and deliver the content and then monetise the ‘engaged audience’”, he explained.
Analytics is therefore impacting business models on monetisation side significantly. “Changing media mix and focus on building engaged communities has resulted in planning and delivery of bespoke solutions built on a brand’s communication objectives. These would again lean quite heavily on insight mining and data analytics across an array of variables in the consumer’s content consumption journey– quite a transition it’s looking to be”, he said.
How has HT been benefited by adopting analytics?
Gupta believes that the role analytics within Hindustan Times is continually evolving as would be the case with most organisations. Monetisation is one of the vastly affected areas by the use of analytics at HT. Looking from a monetisation standpoint, it is being leveraged through many interventions which he explained as below:
- Analytics in the manner of descriptions through dashboards for the sales function is helping them identify and leverage meaningful insights from a whole lot of data without mining into it. It also helps in establishing operating KPIs and act as tools for performance updates, tracking and monitoring etc.
- It enables customer segmentation through various stages of growth and thus predicts the corresponding impact they are likely to result in.
- Aid revenue strategy including pricing through inputs beyond just transactional information.
“Like most organisations, we are also expanding and growing the influence that analytics can have towards making a meaningful business impact”, he added candidly.
Impact on revenue management and pricing strategy
Is analytics changing the revenue management and pricing strategy in media industry? “A whole lot, I would say”, he quickly noted. Given the nature of the industry, coupled with the current economic scenario, there is a whole lot that analytics can help in, for example, churn analysis with a significant share of new advertisers every year, ever evolving mix with varying consumption of inventories sought or different segments of advertisers being active, evolving product configurations with a multitude of options to choose from, and many more.
“Analytics is being leveraged by quite a few organisations to really harness the benefits from an abundant and rich data pool that is getting augmented day after day. Advertising solutions are also gaining complexity– ranging from linear transactions to custom solutions, from a single window to a long term arrangement and so on. Moreover, there is more to be extracted by establishing robust patterns on demand vs. supply for various inventories, to not only assess suitable pricing but more importantly, aid customer satisfaction”, he said.
The rise of AI, ML and chatbots in HT
When it comes to the monetisation standpoint in the media industry, Gupta believes that it is pretty early days, but there surely can be value added by technologies like machine learning and chatbots. “However, there is much to be covered for these technologies to start making a material business impact”, he said.
As HT media is still looking forward to adopting these technologies, he says that one of the key challenges that needs to be addresses for these to truly yield a benefit is to have a structured and integrated data set right from the time the field team prospects an opportunity, or even before that, when the editorial team captures it as a news. It should also follow through the various stages of sales journey till the transaction gets executed, followed by feedback and tracking inputs, if required.
“This remains a significant challenge given the host of formats of data capture— notepads to excel files to CRM inputs etc. coupled with an interaction between many systems. If this can be overcome in a meaningful fashion, there is a lot of value creation that such emerging technologies can result in”, he added.
The analytics roadmap at HT Media
As the company is constantly evolving in terms of making countless decisions based on data, he believes that data without context is quite meaningless and hence is only as valuable as the team looking at it. With a strong management support and a well evolved structure integrated with the revenue leadership, the analytics team as HT media is focusing on many task ranging from descriptive activities to green shoots.
“There are massive growth opportunities and business enhancements that can be made: category development, a mash-up between advertising patterns and reader consumption patterns, dynamic inventory management, pricing solutions, product development opportunities etc.”, he noted.
According to Gupta, the key remains to deliver business impact through the investments being made and identifying the right talent for making the most of the data at hand. “We’ve made some strides in our journey so far. However, as we continually leverage the richness of data generated, there is a whole lot to do still”, he said.
Deterrents on the way of maximising data usage
Governance of data quality, establishing ROI and generating relevant insights have been the most significant challenges not just for HT but for other organisations who are keen on leveraging data for better benefit. He further explained these points as below:
- Strong data quality governance: It involves managing a single source of truth through technology to integrate multiple sources and multiple formats of data inputs. That also means making sure that adequate and skilled resources are available to manage this on a continuous basis under the guidance of sharply defined governance principles to aid data quality.
- While reams of data may be analysed and churned through, the key remains delivering a meaningful insight to the user group. It has to result in an ‘aha’ moment for them, it’s got to be actionable, impactful and practical.
- Establishing ROI: No matter what, any and every penny invested into business has to pass this litmus test and so remains true to analytics. It cannot be a domain that continues to attract investment without any tangible benefits accrued through it.
“Needless to say, this is all meaningful with having the necessary leadership alignment and support as also the talent pool available to progress this”, points out Gupta.
Gupta believes that over the years, analytics industry has evolved from a being data to insights phase, to data predictions and finally generating actions based on these insights.
“Gone are the days when stating what is likely to happen was an accepted deliverable; the need now is “So, what do we do?”. Analytics is fast progressing to generating business impact (direct or soft), and it’s got to be value accretive— be it by virtue of product enhancements, process enhancements, efficacy enhancements or a combination of them”, he says in the concluding.
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