As you build reader data and marketing efforts, questions about organizational goals and structure will inevitably arise.

Your IT, audience, marketing, product, or technology groups may control different pieces of the solution. But as new systems and processes are developed and new skills are added, who is in charge? There is no single answer, but the question must be addressed head-on.

A helpful exercise in alignment is to take a whiteboard and sketch out how your organization would execute a few scenarios:

  • The purchase of a new source of third-party data to enrich customer records.
  • A marketing campaign targeting a specific audience onsite and offsite.
  • An optimization effort to improve conversion within a subscription funnel.
  • Design of a personalization feature to drive onsite engagement.
  • Creation of a C-suite-level dashboard to provide insights into advertising and subscription progress against monthly or quarterly goals.
  • A research initiative to understand average revenue per user and create an ad-free experience for your subscribers.

Those initiatives cross multiple departmental boundaries in most organizations. In each scenario, ask which teams and staff members would need to be involved. How are they aligned to make the work possible? Are there duplicative roles, gaps, or conflicting goals or incentives? How could either the process or structure be improved?

Shared goals and incentives

The challenge of digital media’s current business model is felt most acutely in the tension between our advertising, audience and editorial goals.

Advertising growth depends on page views and an increase in unique visitors. Subscriber growth often relies on metered paywalls that potentially limit pages viewed. Editorial success is less tangible but benefits from broad and unhampered access to readers. Those goals are not necessarily in conflict, but the short-term tactics we use to meet them can and do interfere.

In each case, the raw tactics that may benefit one objective (more ads) might conflict with the goals (premium design, engaged readers) of the other two. Even with the best intentions it is difficult for an organization to navigate those challenges.

The ability to fully answer the following questions gives the organization an entirely new and more powerful set of tools. It allows teams to better understand and balance competing priorities, leading to more collaboration and increasingly aligned goals:

  • What would be the impact on total revenue if we created an ad-free digital subscription offer?
  • How would page views and ad impressions change if page-load time was decreased by 40 percent?
  • Is Facebook or Google a better source of loyal readers and potential subscribers?
  • What content is most valuable to local, loyal readers?

New skills and titles

While shifting to reader revenue may require hiring new staff with expertise in data and analysis, the focus should be on skills, not headcount.

The new skills you may be hiring for across different roles could include data analysis; business intelligence tools; Python, SAS, R, SQL; data modeling; dashboard design; probability, statistics, machine learning algorithms and system design.

Among the job titles that might encompass those skills:

  • Business Analyst
  • Data Analyst
  • Data Architect
  • Database Administrator
  • Data Engineer
  • Data Scientist
  • Machine Learning Engineer

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