For me, the most interesting development is most definitely Northern & Shell. Twitter and IBM coming together makes a lot of sense and will give marketers better insights into the data the social media giant creates, but I have a horrible feeling it will branch off into the world of Big Data. It's here, in my honest opinion, that IT companies often disappear into crazy talk about adding two and two together to make five and call it a successful result.
Trust me -- I've worked quite a bit in this area and outside marketing, and I have not yet seen a good example of Big Data helping anyone. It has been linked to helping hospitals plan for cold spells and ensuring that transport companies aren't caught out by road works or bad weather. My favourite example ever is helping to suggest that women buying a black dress should add a pair of shoes. My answer is always to check the weather forecast, Google traffic conditions -- and let's be real, do you really need a supercomputer to help make the link between a new dress and a pair of shoes?
So Northern & Shell are developing a CRM programme that will provide a better view of its readers and most importantly, keep hold of that data.
The big challenge right now for publishers is to do exactly this. Too many are leaking valuable data to advertisers via the demand-side route. It seems to make sense. Pass on data and you'll get a better CPM. However, it's shortsighted.
The real way forward for publishers is to keep control of their data through a supply-side strategy. Keep the data close. Let the advertisers in, of course, give them first-party data on their campaigns, by all means, but don't let them forget that you're the holder of the real-time data on who is looking at your content right here, right now.
Northern & Shell talked about their new approach at the recent MediaPost OMMA Audience Buying event in London. It was, in their own words, clearly very early days, but by building a better view of their readers and tapping into their social contacts, the publisher knew it could turn data into insight which it could then control.
Greater protection and keeping their proverbial cards close to their chest will allow publishers to accommodate programmatic RTB campaigns without leaking a data and fueling a "race to the bottom" as CPMs nosedive.
So for me, Northern & Shell's new strategy is music to my ears.
Controlling data through a supply-side approach has to be the way forward for publishers as programmatic continues to gain traction.