Every company is familiar with the problem of technology sprawl. It is very natural for people to find tech solutions to business problems that involve installing yet another piece of software or bringing in another workflow into the business.
For publishers, this problem can be particularly difficult to manage. From content management systems to analytics tools, subscription software and data management, there are a lot of cogs in the machine which need to work together to make a content business work.
There are many issues with having all these processes managed by separate tools. If not set up correctly, communication and data transfer between them can fail, putting publishers at risk of regulatory violations as well as data loss and mismanagement. Alongside this are the missed opportunities of not being able to identify returning audiences properly across separate products.
Migrating to a unified technology platform can solve many of these issues, and open up new opportunities. In a recent Conversations episode, Markus Karlsson, CEO of Affino joined Steve Hinds, Digital Editor and Product Manager at travel news industry site TTG Media and Esther Kezia Thorpe of Media Voices to discuss the benefits of software systems consolidation. The talk covered many opportunities as well as challenges, from compliant analytics to resources and management.
Here are three of the biggest benefits of technology consolidation for publishers.
1. Achieving true GDPR and regulatory compliance
The GDPR hype of 2018 has largely died down now, with little meaningful enforcement seen in the industry. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t still be on a publisher’s priority list. Technology can be used to help ensure compliance, but too many plugins and software can open an organisation up to a breach of the law.
Karlsson gave an example of one media group he worked with which had between fifty and sixty different platforms, but only one of those used a GDPR-compliant API. “A lot of this comes down to the fact that the companies are American tech companies, and for them, sending through permissions and preferences along with the user data is not such a big deal,” he theorised. “But if you [use] two platforms, and you don’t have an API which has preferences and permissions, how can you be GDPR compliant?”
“If you’ve got 20 [platforms] and someone says, ‘Please remove my record,’ you have to have a process to go into those 20 different platforms to delete those users to be GDPR compliant.”
This doesn’t mean publishers aren’t trying to comply, though. Karlsson sees many of them working hard to maintain accurate and up-to-date records. But because the technology isn’t properly connected up, they can end up deleting far more records than necessary in order to stay on the safe side.
“I’ve seen [publishers] deleting thousands, or tens of thousands of records. They delete them because they can’t keep them fresh – they don’t know that someone hit their website last week from the events platform, because it’s not connected to it,” he explained. “The more silos you have, the less data you have, the less you’re allowed to keep legally and ethically.”
2. Connecting data for a more agile business
Karlsson’s experiences of unnecessary data silos also rang true with TTG’s Steve Hinds. They wanted to be able to see everything their audiences were engaging with in one place, without the need for multiple tools or dashboards.
“We were processing data across lots of different systems, which was just an enormous duplication of effort, especially when you’re a small team,” Hinds explained. “There were a lot of plates to keep spinning, and it made sense to try to reduce that. Plus, it’s really expensive, and really time consuming. I was keen to simplify as much as possible.”
Hinds said that consolidating made a lot of sense to him, especially in light of their goal to have everything in a single customer view. “All of the various engagements communicate with each other without having to worry about APIs, or connections between different systems,” he noted of their new setup.
This newfound agility was reflected very quickly at the start of the pandemic, when TTG Media decided to launch a membership programme. The travel publisher had been using a metered registration wall for a few years which enabled them to better understand the needs and habits of their audience. Despite the pandemic decimating development and advertising budgets, having a unified system meant that TTG was able to push on with its membership launch.
“[Without a unified technology platform] we’d have been looking at a massive outlay in investment, and at that point in the pandemic, there was no way that was going to happen,” Hinds commented. “But it was all effectively there for us. It’s the same with a lot of the modules in Affino – we might as well use them. If all the different parts are working together and speaking to each other, it makes the whole setup a lot more powerful.”
3. Reducing environmental impact
Increasingly, a publisher’s green credentials are being taken into consideration by advertisers. At Cannes this year, the largest media buying groups said they were beginning to select publisher ad inventory using a checklist of ‘sustainability criteria’. For publishers looking to reduce their environmental footprint, the tech setup is a good place to start.
“If an organisation is using 50 different platforms, what is the energy footprint of using 50 different platforms that could be done by one platform?” asked Karlsson. “What’s the energy cost of storing 50 different customer records, across 50 different platforms?”
Even plugins have an environmental cost, and while this may not seem like a big deal, it soon adds up. “Loading up a page on a mobile phone, when it’s coming from 20 different plugins or 30 different plugins, takes a huge amount of processing power,” Karlsson explained.
“Instead of loading up one font, you’re downloading 20 fonts, instead of sending through one CSS to run the page, you’ve got 20, 30 different bits of CSS going for each one of the elements that you’re doing, instead of capturing the interaction once because you know that that person’s hit the page, you’ve got 20 different platforms trying to capture that somebody hit that page. What is the environmental footprint of using 40 or 50 platforms to deliver for your organisations? It’s vast!”
Small factors can really add up when it comes to an organisation’s footprint, and digital systems may not seem like the most obvious place to start to begin to reduce that. But as Karlsson pointed out, these hidden environmental costs can really add up. Reducing them and exploring consolidation is a win-win for a publisher’s green credentials, its regulatory compliance and its data strategy.
This feature was created as a partnership between Media Voices and Affino and is republished with kind permission. Listen to their Conversations episode with Media Voices’ Esther Kezia Thorpe discussing the benefits of software systems consolidation here, or search ‘Media Voices’ wherever you listen to podcasts.