Ups And Downs Of Data, Programmatic: Q&A With News Corp's Chris Guenther

First-party data has become a coveted product, especially for News Corp. In fact, the publishing conglomerate collects and processes many terabytes of data across the globe.

“You get lost in it,” said Chris Guenther, global head of programmatic for News Corp. “And that’s one of the key things. Data isn’t just about massive reams of data, but discipline, and making sure you collect and analyze the right data points to make them actionable.”

When it comes to sorting through the data -- everything from log-level data to site data -- News Corp relies mostly on technology, but also people, to distinguish the “right” from wrong. The data stored in a data warehouse tells News Corp how its site visitors interact with the advertising. The opt-in data is used to build profiles for audience segments.

When it comes to programmatic technology, Guenther acknowledges the inherent flaws and inefficiencies on the back end that need fixing, but he believes the technology is taking steps in the right direction.



“I’m not saying programmatic is perfect,” he said. “We all know that’s not true. It does try to make a more seamless execution of advertising. These inefficiencies need to be weeded out, such as cultural relations between buyers and sellers.”

Data & Programmatic Insider sat down with Guenther to get his thoughts on some of the benefits, challenges and flaws of programmatic technology. Here are excerpts from the conversation.  

Data & Programmatic Insider:  How is News Corp fixing some of the flaws of programmatic technology?

Guenther:  We’ve been cleaning up our ad-tech stack. On the product side we’ve been redesigning sites. You see how The New York Post has changed the availability of its ad placements, and also cleaned up the site, for example. We’ve been taking more control of building our proprietary wrapper so we can bring on more supply side platforms. News IQ works within that environment, so we can execute across all our properties.

D&PI:  How is News Corp protecting its advertisers against misinformation?

Guenther:  Some of our publications have been at the forefront of the investigative reporting, where you see the ads being served next to terrorism videos.

We create the content and it goes through a very vigorous editorial process, so we know ads will be in a safe environment. For publications -- whether The Wall Street Journal or The Times of London -- we want to make sure our advertisers won’t suffer or feel embarrassed.

D&PI:  What about the ad technology that serves those ads?

Guenther:  We have a few things underway. We work with third-party verification tools necessary for targeting. On our end, we’ve been applying natural-language processing and a taxonomy to all our comments that go through an API, whether keywords or categories. We use it to inform our audience insights.

Now we are moving toward a way not only targeting, but suppressing. Dow Jones already has a product in-market called Dow Jones ID that allows for granular textual targeting. Our content goes through common pipes that let us, from the start, understand what’s in that content -- not just from when the advertiser bids on it.

D&PI:  What is your biggest challenge for 2019?

Guenther:  Our fiscal year ends in June. So I feel like it’s almost over, so we’re focused on 2020.

The opportunities and data we gather across different assets -- there are a million paths we can take. Given the different business units, the biggest challenge is the work we do with all types of data like blog-level data.

D&PI:  Data -- is that what you think about when you wake in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep?

Guenther:  Well it could be that my kids have climbed in bed with us, but in terms of business it has been the significant investment in engineering talent to execute the best projects.

D&PI:  What books are you reading now?

Guenther:  One of the books is called A Peace To End All Peace by David Fromkin, which highlights the hubris of people -- in this case the British, making decisions in the post-War I world. It’s about making the wrong assumptions, being misinformed and being stubborn, which leads to all the challenges in the Middle East and all the challenges we face.

It is a fascinating read, but when you read a book like that it makes you think how it applies to your business life, although at a much smaller scale. It makes you question your assumptions and priorities. And try to think through the outcome -- the outcome that you think may occur and the outcome that may occur from some of the decisions you make.

D&PI:  Did News Corp. implement GDPR standards across all properties?

Guenther:  Not all our properties are GDPR-compliant, because it hasn’t been necessary.

For example, a majority of’s traffic comes from the United States and the rest from Asia. That said, there’s been a push to make sure the privacy policies are standard across News Corp, because we want to make sure the users of Dow Jones and other publications know that if their actions lead to data, we can use it.

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