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How SHE Media extends the use of first-party data to eCommerce and branded content

TL;DR: SHE Media explains how it uses first-party data to build cohorts based on purchase intent, deliver insights to advertisers from its branded content and build its community of publishers.  

Digital media company SHE Media, part of Penske Media Corporation (PMC), focuses on publications created by and for women, which collectively boast more than 80 million unique visitors a month. A top 5 lifestyle media company based in New York, its four primary publishing brands are SheKnows, BlogHer, STYLECASTER, and Soaps.

In addition to the company’s owned and operated brands, the SHE Media Collective supports thousands of independent publishers and social content creators with custom technology, education, and monetization opportunities to grow their businesses.

Despite the publisher’s ongoing success, in 2020 the company realized – with the demise of the third-party cookie on the horizon – that building out its first-party data would be paramount to continued growth. However, whilst SHE Media had the resources, the publisher didn’t have the first-party data collection practices to help it get the most out of its reader data.

Fast forward to 2022 and the publisher has spent the last 24 months working with audience platform Permutive to lay the groundwork for its first-party data strategy which is now bearing fruit – the publisher is able to create first-party cohorts that identify core audiences and what is most valuable to brand advertisers.

“Permutive has done a great job of understanding what our customer’s needs are, codifying it in a way that’s specific to our business,” says Brett Goverman, Associate VP, Data Strategy at PMC. “We’re able to create the segmentation, categorize our audiences, and build the collateral. It’s a customized playbook based on our own business.”

Intent on making a purchase

Simultaneously, SHE Media also began to make its content more shoppable and focus on enhancing the shopping experience for users across all its content areas.

Upon doing so, the lifestyle media network found that users were very receptive to making purchases within content – a clear trend replicated by other leading premium publishers. And, as more of those opportunities were produced, more growth was seen in engagement with those shopping experiences creating a virtuous circle of purchase and user engagement.

As a result, SHE Media began to amass a wealth of data relating to all of the shopping behaviors across its properties. Using Permutive to inform the first-party strategy in relation to eCommerce, SHE Media then created its proprietary targeting technology, Purchase Intent Graph, in 2021.

We create solutions to deliver relevant messages in front of the consumers that are showing strong shopping behaviors, and help brands to capitalize on that.

Kristen Fairback, Executive VP, Sales, SHE Media

SHE Media’s Purchase Intent Graph focuses on consumer purchase behavior to deliver better experiences to audiences, and deeper insights, first-party targeting segmentation, and overall advertising engagements for brands. Since implementing the tool, the company has seen that approximately 1-in-10 users that visit shopping-related pages subsequently click on a shoppable link.

All in the branding

This first-party data strategy also ties into SHE Media’s branded content offering, where it uses PMC’s Atlas Data Studio to inform the content. The Atlas Data Studio is PMC’s first-party data solution that combines first-party data from across PMC and SHE Media’s stakeholders and platforms, including Permutive, to deliver insights to brands.

With Atlas, SHE Media is able to understand its branded content audiences with more clarity. It looks at the content people are reading, the products they’re interested in, the brands they’re interested in, how often they’re looking at this type of content, and more, to provide recommendations.

SHE Media ran an A/B test with its branded content, looking at how much more successful first-party data-powered targeting was than campaigns run without it. The company found that the use of first-party data increased engagement by five times.

In a separate test, it looked at the first-party data-backed campaigns it had run with some larger advertisers versus the entirety of the campaigns it ran. SHE Media found that there was a two times increase in performance, compared to the benchmark.

Partners like Permutive lay the bricks, but it’s on us to take it and run with it to make it valuable. A Ferrari is only going to go if you know how to drive a stick. We’re on our third or fourth lap around the track at this point, so we’re getting pretty good at really driving value for advertisers.

Brett Goverman, Associate VP, Data Strategy at PMC

Building a meaningful community

One of SHE Media’s key initiatives is its ‘Meaningful Marketplaces’ (MMP), which is a community of sites within the SHE Media Collective that have self-identified as minority-owned sites or publishers. The aim of MMP is to enable brands to invest directly towards these publishers, while increasing the visibility and incremental earning potential of the publishers.

Since its launch in 2020, MMP has grown beyond being a media-only offering. Publishers and content creators involved in the community can now be tapped into for custom video and blog content, social content, and speaking appearances on stage at SHE Media’s live and virtual events, as well as the traditional targeted media.

First-party data is an integral part of MMP, helping SHE Media to identify, not only the audiences that are already engaging with the publishers, but also new audiences. This can then be used to drive those audiences to the sites and, ultimately, benefit both the publishers and brands with increased traffic.

“We integrate and tap into our first-party data for absolutely everything, and we’ll continue to do so,” says Fairback. “It’s an integral part of all aspects of our business. The programmatic side and the direct IO side. It’s across all the initiatives that we have today, and ones that we’ll be launching in the future.”