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Media and zero-party data: Audience insights hold the key to profitability

Written by Alida

Published February 15, 2023

Customers’ needs are changing at breakneck speed. Only insight communities can keep up.


It was a blessing dressed as a curse. Or at least an inconvenience.

With third-party cookies set to be phased out by 2024, media companies have a unique opportunity to gain control of their own data.

Organisations like LADbible, Channel 4, and Twitch are already doing it. They know about the advantages of creating programs to engage audiences in real time and develop highly profiled samples. They use this data not only for ad testing or enabling sales teams, but also to drive more diverse content and product decisions.                                                                                                          

With more devices, content formats, and platforms all competing for consumers’ attention, the need to create personalised, interactive, and immersive experiences is greater than ever.

This also means that brands looking to stay at the top must continuously acquire new audiences and consumers, drive engagement and revenue growth, and continuously improve their subscriber experience in order to maintain and grow their footprint in a competitive market.

It seems like a monumental task. While there’s no formula, there are ways to develop a direct line of communication with your audience, acquire valuable zero-party data, and efficiently act on that information.

Media be nimble, media be quick

First, a pressing question: how are you measuring your audience?

Linear television is measured through survey data, while digital uses near-real time signals from devices. Linear carves up a daily schedule into “units” of time, while digital advertising treats each opportunity to serve an ad as unique.  These fundamental differences make it complicated to merge the two spaces, in part because linear and digital are speaking different languages.

Opportunities abound, but companies—especially video streamers—who enter this realm might be forced to make significant investments in infrastructure and technology to enable a seamless and integrated shoppable media ecosystem (including integration across content, buying supply chains, and payment systems) on their existing platforms.

With the rise in popularity of ad-supported video streaming services, shoppable media could be integrated into advertising models and interactive ad formats to bolster engagement and sales. This tactic could be especially important to retain audiences that might otherwise wander off. More broadly, shoppable media may shift the commerce ecosystem to favor smaller, more nimble creators, rather than more established brands.

Keeping up with the innovators

In this highly competitive, volatile scenario, insight communities offer key advantages for media organisations:

  • Help you develop new models of monetisation and segmentation that drive the most value to your audiences.
  • Enables your CX strategy to adapt to new media consumption patterns and/or subscription models as needed.
  • Supports content co-creation in partnership with your audiences to meet their needs, and builds loyalty through the process.
  • Reprioritise your metrics for success (greater focus on retention, engagement, and customer value.

Two of the most agile media companies operating today, Channel 4 and Twitter, understood that working with communities is a win/win situation for members and the organisation.

Channel 4’s community influences their upcoming shows, costumes, settings, story lines, etcetera. Twitter was willing to put Larry’s colour (their emblematic bird mascot) in the hands of their community (they chose to stick with blue). In these examples, media customers feel like they’re setting the agenda and therefore are more likely to remain loyal.

Success and revenue growth comes from cohesion between all the departments (marketing, commercial, insight teams). LADbible, for example, operates as “one team”, with every department understanding the value of the other, i.e. the commercial and marketing teams coming to the insights team for data and turn it into revenue growth.


Acing the community challenge


Refinery29 is a leading global media company focused on young women. With production hubs all over the world, they create over 2,400 pieces of content a week in 25 languages.

THE CHALLENGE: Refinery29 wanted to leverage their reputation to drive advertising revenue. Their consumer awareness outside of fashion and beauty was limited and they needed to attract new partnerships and deepen their personal finance content.

THE SOLUTION: In order to capture fast, agile audience insights, the team launched Mad Chatter, composed of 11,000+ opted-in, highly engaged, richly profiled members. The deep insights were used to provide bespoke partner packages.

THE OUTCOME: Refinery29 broke into the financial ad marked and generated $5M in incremental revenue. Additionally, it introduced an insight-backed workflow for the editorial process.



Not that it needs an introduction, but Twitter is a microblogging and social networking site with over 350 million users and a fairly well known owner.

THE CHALLENGE: Twitter wanted to build a deeper relationship with advertising partners and unlock new revenue streams in key verticals.

THE SOLUTION: They launched the insight community Twitter Insiders to uncover direct feedback to complement and augment traditional media metrics, behavioural, and usage data. The goal was to become experts in engaging new and receptive audiences for advertisers.

THE OUTCOME: Twitter contributed to 10% of gross revenue from their travel industry partners. The company’s sales team also assures the insights gathered promoted advertiser revenue opportunities.


Gen Z and the land of reverse loyalty

Gen Z upended the concept of loyalty. Brands now must prove to millennials why they should remain loyal. In order to succeed, companies had to adapt their language, personalise it, break into new communication channels, and even share their causes.

Alas, such effort is rewarded many times over. Once Gen Z buys into a brand, they're likely to recommend it to friends, write reviews, and post about it on platforms where other millennials shop or make decisions.

One of the challenges presented by millennials was that third party data didn’t go deep enough, they weren’t willing to share info and the cost of outsourcing quality research on this demographic would be prohibitive.

Twitch, the video service better known for streaming video games and esport competitions, engaged tech-savvy users by establishing a gamer community and a research power group on top of it. As a result, Twitch shaved four weeks from each research project and has seen 200% YOY increase in audience insight delivered to partners. In addition, Twitch has leveraged the insight gained to break into new categories.

Insight communities are the common element in all these success stories. While they can solve many of the challenges in the current media landscape, it’s key to know how to manage them efficiently in order to make the most of your investment.

Many of the insights shared were taken from Alida’s Global Media Roundtable series, where Media leaders from organisations around the world gather to discuss the most pressing topics facing the industry. Looking to join the conversation? Request your seat at our upcoming roundtable in the UK on March 16th.