Your data may be worth (a lot) more than you think…

Data in the media world used to mean just four things:
1. Number of subscribers
2. Number of newsstand sales
3. Advertising revenue
4. The number on the bottom line

Today, data are what your chief data scientist parses and interprets for you. If you don’t have a chief data scientist, data are what you and your team struggle to convert into editorial, sales, and marketing insights.

But even that is a limited view of the power of data today. Today, data can be much, much more. Data can actually make you some serious money.

Selling data-as-a-service (DaaS) has proven to be very lucrative for some companies. Its success has fulfilled the prophecy of Prescott Shibles, Senior VP/Data of advertising firm Randall Reilly, who told the 2015 Connectiv Executive Summit that “targeting data will soon be worth more than advertising inventory.”

Unfortunately, few media companies have figured out how to make that happen.

One company that has figured it out — big time — is the 48-year-old US-based B2B media company Hanley Wood whose data businesses bring in more than one-third of the company’s total revenue.

It wasn’t easy getting there

To get there, Hanley Wood had to reverse-engineer their entire business model to put digital and data first. As a result, they can provide unique data to advertisers, charge a premium for it, and boost performance on their own properties.

“What was tough was coming to understand that we had to change, that the next chapter of the company couldn’t look anything like the last,” former Hanley Wood CEO Peter Goldstone told Publishing Executive (Goldstone left the company in late 2018 following its sale to private equity firm MidOcean Partners). “And that meant that [we had] to make really tough decisions. We went from 35 print magazines down to 15. We’re still generating three times the amount of content because we are leveraging digital platforms now. But it forced us to rethink the talent equation and technology investments.”

The transformation of the company began in 2012 when Goldstone returned to Hanley Wood. He had been with the company for 11 years before leaving to become president of Government Executive Media Group, the B2B division of Atlantic Media, for a few years.

When he got back, he and his team came to the realisation that the world had changed.

“What we saw in the marketplace was a collision of four major trends: An increase in audience sophistication; huge amounts of data coming in; a vastly evolving media consumption landscape; and disruptive marketing technologies, which certainly to a publisher like ourselves has big ramifications,” Andy Reid, President of Digital and Strategic Development, told the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), the trade association for the software and digital content industry. “This forced us to re-assess our product and value proposition.”

The Hanley Wood team realised that the company’s future lay in a radical and rapid transformation of the company in a way that made data, data insights, and marketing services the core of the company’s business model.

New demands required new skill sets

The shift also required new staff with skills not extant at the company at the time.

The company did what most media companies were not doing: They hired people, more than 20 people from the tech media space to help build up all their digital platforms and strategic marketing services, said Hanley Wood Media President David Colford. From that point, Hanley Wood was able to build a lot of database solutions that they could then white label to their customers, he said.

Colford said they saw their customers starting to implement CRM systems and clean up their databases coming out of the construction market recession. They enlisted our talent, our expertise, our specialisation, our data services, and our data to help build more robust databases that they can leverage for marketing purposes, he said.

One of the first things Hanley Wood had to do to make the transformation possible was the unification of the dozens of disconnected databases around the company to get its own data house in order.

“We needed to describe that data in a way that yielded the most value,” said Reid. “The challenge was that we had all these insights into our audience that were siloed but not connected. We had to organise it so we could expose it to advertisers and get premium rates. We consolidated these insights and put them into an organised form that gives them derived insights into buyer preferences.”

A game-changer

Then, in 2013, in what was viewed by media observers as “a game-changer,” Hanley Wood acquired Metrostudy, a leading provider of primary and secondary market information to the housing and related industries nationwide.

The addition of Metrostudy data to Hanley Wood’s own audience data gave the company the ability to help clients leverage the combined databases to meet their business goals.

With Metrostudy data, Hanley Wood could go beyond the typical publisher data insights around behavioural and demographic data to include primary market data.

Metrostudy has hundreds of researchers who gather data every quarter at over 36,000 building and housing developments across the country, Colford said. From that activity, Hanley Wood was collecting a lot of proprietary data in the building environment.

That powerful and unequalled combination of data guides Hanley Wood’s media and marketing services solutions and transformed the company from a traditional print-centric, trade-show-oriented B2B publisher to a data-based media player that also has deep connections to the marketplace through its dominant media brands.

Helping companies maximise the value of their data

Then, in 2016, Hanley Wood launched its DaaS offering — DataScale.

DataScale powers an advanced lead-generation technology platform that is both flexible and scalable and integrates Hanley Wood’s proprietary Construction Industry Database (the biggest in the industry with more than 2.5 billion records).

DataScale offers a full-service lead-generation platform focused on helping customers maximise internal data assets and optimise their sales and marketing automation investments.

With increased investment in marketing automation and CRM, companies are challenged to realise the full value from the data they have and improve the quality of their lead generation programs, said Colford. DataScale delivers actionable insights that allow our customers to maximise the value of their data and optimise the performance of their marketing investments.

A customer’s database is the most critical asset they own and a key driver behind their success, according to Colford. The DataScale platform is specifically directed at helping customers optimise their CRM investments and go-to-market strategies through database cleansing and enhancement, audience targeting and segmentation, and advanced lead development programs, Colford said.

A tech system to maximise the data

Finally, in 2018, Hanley Wood took the next logical step and launched a technology platform to enable clients to better manipulate and put to use the Hanley Wood data.

The Technology Services Platform provides customers with the ability to streamline existing workflow decision-support processes by improving the timely delivery of business intelligence critical to the customer’s competitive market assessments.

The Technology Services Platform is a custom-built tool that pre-populates a customer’s existing workflow decision support tools with Metrostudy data to provide both corporate and field offices with consistent and regular analysis in real-time for existing communities and future land deals.

“By delivering actionable insights, we maximise the value of their data and optimise the performance of their business investments,” said Reid.

Hanley Wood now offers DaaS-related services including database management services and consulting with clients to align their data with customer acquisition, media, marketing and events strategies, as well as long-term consultative marketing engagements, website development, lead generation, and content marketing.

Everybody wants data driving digital solutions but they don’t necessarily have the talent embedded within the organisations to understand it completely, observed Colford. Nonetheless, our customers understand that they really have to do it and that’s the Hanley Wood value proposition, he said.

As a result, they have come to rely on Metrostudy data and Hanley Wood talent to help navigate this new world — because it’s very complex and the one thing that it really does is help them mitigate risk, Colford said.

“Where data drives action”

According to Colford, the company’s marketing services are now a US$25m+ business.

“Where we used to lead with media or trade show sponsorship, now we lead with data,” Colford said.

Hanley Wood’s business model today is one of the most diversified in the industry, including data, advisory, advertising and marketing services, as well as media, business intelligence, events, lead generation, and education.

A company that used to be a collection of media and event brands now has as its crown jewel a unified, powerful database, Colford concluded.

The old days are gone

When Goldstone started his career, the media business model had not changed in generations: ”You sold a widget, the widget was a four-colour ad page, and you sold it a million times. Or an event booth — you sold that a million times,” he told Publishing Executive.

But, “the world has changed,” he said.

And with the recent acquisition by MidOcean Partners and merger with Meyers Research, the newly combined company led by Jeff Meyers, CEO of Hanley Wood/Meyers Research, is leading that change. Rapidly.

This article, along with many many more is available in full, within the pages of our Innovation in Media 2019-2020 World report, available for purchase in print or digital edition.