19th June 2017  |  

Perspective of the Month

Everyone has heard of dark social, the things you privately share on instant messenger or email, and the rising importance placed on understanding what individuals are doing in this space. Like an iceberg, if you just focus on what you can see above the waves you ignore 80% to 90% of what is underneath. In a similar way we are often now focusing on what people curate, share and like publically rather than what they do for themselves personally. Everyone has interests that they don’t feel it necessary to admit to their friends, family or followers, so only relying on public interest data could be a mistake for advertisers.

Interest and behavioural targeting has existed for over a decade in digital, but how this data was collected and these audiences built was always opaque and murky. Social networks changed all that seemingly overnight. Their USP was always that they could accurately target niche audiences at scale, partly based on who or what someone has liked, what they share and what they comment on.

The thing about social media is that a lot of people aren’t very interested in a lot of their ‘interests’. Those 200 old school friends you never actually speak to? Those 20 companies you followed a year ago for a chance to win a competition? That article you forwarded on without reading because you thought it would make you look clever? The answer for most people – not interested.

I am certainly not suggesting their demographic and interest targeting is weak, as in many ways it is exceptional. But there is a fundamental problem here, in that people have developed a ‘social persona’, their own ‘online brand’, one that they know will be judged and criticised by their peers and that needs to be carefully managed and curated.

MailOnline in contrast is a uniquely personal experience, one that can help to uncover more of what lies below the surface. What you read is your choice and no one has to worry that their daily content choices are being judged. Writing more than 1,000 stories a day about every conceivable topic, we never tell people what to read. Our homepage is still curated by an editor, and how high a story is puffed is partly dictated by our readers, whether it’s a serious news topic about North Korea or a light-hearted lifestyle piece. In a world where people are being delivered content using algorithms to serve them more of what ‘it’ thinks think you already like, it is more important people have a broader choice. MailOnline is truly different being a mix of both what is popular, what is new and what you didn’t know you would be interested in. Thus we believe we are culturally relevant and a much more personal ‘interest’ platform.

With the help of advancing technology, we are now tracking everything that every user does on the site, defining who they are and what they like. We track a huge number of people (29million uniques according to comScore) who are highly engaged (10 visits a month) meaning we have a really accurate picture of what makes them tick. We also don’t make judgements on our users and know that men often read celebrity articles that traditionally you would not expect them to. All too often advertisers are dictating strict demographic targeting that ignores that passions and interests often don’t live up to stereotypes.

This deep level understanding will only increase as we improve and build more advanced data modelling and processing capabilities. Incorporating huge amounts of data from within our organisation, from MyMail to ecommerce platforms like Mail Shop, we can continue to build a richer and more detailed persona of our consumers. Importantly we are not a walled garden and we welcome partnerships that add value and understanding to our audience, from recent partnerships with Netmums to data deals with Mosaic, Visual DNA and Bombara, as well as exploring new opportunities with Nectar.

The kind of insights we can now provide don’t just inform our targeting and supercharge our performance campaigns. We are now better placed than ever to help you understand audiences before you have even spent a penny with us. Whether we survey our users with our new pulse tool to investigate specific topics or we look to create bespoke segments to understand their wider interests we have an offering to help.

As we move towards this new strategic role in the media landscape, we become not just an activation platform but a partner to support your understanding of your consumers based on who they really are rather than just what they portray.

By Bedir Aydemir, Product Marketing & Insight Director