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Private Media Wants More of Your Data

Private media are going for a bigger share of digital ad revenues. But that puts their credibility at risk.

Private publicist media are doing well. In particular, they are seeing a tailwind when it comes to getting users to pay for digital subscriptions. But they want a bigger share of ad revenue, and they can get it from data. That was one of the messages at an international media conference, INMA, in Copenhagen recently.

Traditionally, private media have held the lion’s share of the advertising market – until Google and Facebook started eating their way into market share. Their share of ad revenue in Denmark was 25% in 2015 and is expected to be over 60% by 2025. If media are to get a bigger chunk, they believe they need to do what the two tech giants are doing; acquire more data. And how do you do that? By getting more active users and getting them to log in

For a couple of decades, the tech giants – and in their footsteps also the media – have been getting lots of so-called third-party data, i.e. data they collect by tracking users from website to website using third-party cookies. These cookies are being phased out because many users are fed up with the surveillance, and then the legislation is tightening. So, the fight is now about first-party data. That is, the data you give yourself when you log in.

Norwegian Amedia, which publishes a wide range of newspapers in print and online, also spoke at the conference in Copenhagen. The group’s smart data strategy has attracted many users to log in and it sits on 130 data points on each user. Data is used to analyse content, get users to convert to payment and at the same time provide them with personalised content and advertising.

However, the desire for more digital ad revenue is challenging the serious media. On the one hand, they risk that their users get tired of their data harvesting and thus quit. On the other hand, they risk losing credibility with their paying customers, because the digital content becomes poorer with headlines that can generate the necessary traffic.

You’ve probably experienced this yourself. Annoying headlines designed to entice you to click, clickbait as it’s called. Here are three examples: it caused deep concern among parents with schoolchildren: Now the government is dropping it. They live in a very special house – and don’t feel the high energy prices at all. How the hell does he get his hands on so many millions?

Clickbait, however, is something tabloid newspapers excel at most. It might work for those living purely off ad revenue. But does it make sense for more serious publications, whose users are may be scared away by the digital bait?

“I’m annoyed that as a paying customer of Politiken I have to have my intelligence insulted. The headlines in the printed newspaper are sober and descriptive, but on they are meaningless and contentless”, wrote Søren Ladegaard on in August, referring to the clickbait headlines. Many customers agreed, and according to media analyst Thomas Baekdal, who highlights the example in a recent analysis, there are still many headlines on the frontpage of that have an element of clickbait, but this author notes that it has actually improved.

The serious media are thus balancing on a knife-edge when they want more ad revenue and data while maintaining credibility as a serious media.

What is the solution?
Well Thomas Baekdahl has only one: drop traffic metrics and go for lifetime subscribers.

Perhaps Søren Ladegaard, who says he has cancelled his Politiken subscription, actually has a better idea: To make two digital headlines. One for the free and one for the paying. It would also mean that more could be claimed for the paying on the website. Not only with informative headlines, but also with less annoying ads and, not least, with dialogue with users who actually have a lot to offer.

Translated with (free version)

First published in Politiken in Danish

Photo: Dev Asangbam,