Cross-selling might sound like a chapter in an MBA textbook, but it was an incredibly logical and constant goal at the Financial Times. There was so much data on very valuable customers strewn across their portfolio of properties, one could only imagine the financial return if it was properly harnessed. A FT.com subscriber was a very likely candidate for one of the many more expensive products.
There was a CRM unification effort using Salesforce underway when I left a couple years back (hopefully it’s gone well). Anyone who has watched a large corporation attempt to unify data across departments knows very well that it’s far more than a technical challenge. The internal politics can be as much of a hurdle as the data integration. Who owns which relationships can get pretty ugly.
Imagine if the FT, or Bloomberg, or even the NY Times and Wall Street Journal had perfect customer visibility for every person that came through their ecosystem. They could perfectly market an upcoming event that was relevant to a current subscriber and only them. They could efficiently market new products without alienating subscribers with spammy mass messaging. The value of each existing individual user could be so much greater, the relationship between the firm and that user, so much stronger.
I’d guess every one of these firms are hard at work on making this a reality. Any media business that doesn’t just sell eyeballs to advertisers, but actually sells things to their readers absolutely needs to be. Imagine if they all got it done. The FT, Bloomberg, and the NY Times had perfect visibility of every individual user that came through any part of their worlds.
At Informerly, we’ve been working on perfecting a unified, individual-level view of every user from day one.
But here’s where things get a little wild.
Imagine if the entire editorial staff at each of these companies was entirely focused on that same collection of user information. Their first stop in the morning was not a CMS, but a CRM. Their collective job was to make sure each one of those individuals was properly informed. It could be writing articles, finding links, navigating social media, giving talks, making introductions to experts, aggregating data, literally anything that helped inform your individual users.
Instead of guessing what might be important to an audience of unknowns, you would actually know, you’d see the results, and you’d constantly improve. There would be real people with real feedback letting you know if you’re doing your job.
Imagine if the core of a media organization was that CRM-like collection of information, individual-level, unified views of every single user you touch. Your single most important asset was that amassed collection of relationships, 1:1 relationships between your entire firm and that individual user.
Imagine it as a well-oiled machine. Each user was a real person with real needs. Editorial working tirelessly to make sure you’re delivered the information you need. Sales making sure you’re aware of any additional products that can help you be better informed. Advertising presenting you with things that could actually add value to your life. Everyone working in their own way to deepen the relationship between the company and the individual. Everyone knowing that if that trust is violated, no one in wins. Everyone understanding that the deeper that relationship becomes, the risk of that user and their value going elsewhere becomes less and less.
We know it sounds ridiculous. The idea of a well-oiled machine perfectly serving the diverse information needs of a professional audience not only sounds unattainable, it would seem a complete violation of the editorial / commercial divide that has been indoctrinated into every news organization over the past century.
We not only believe it can be done, we believe it needs to be done. It’s increasingly apparent that business models built on pure, unadulterated scale will not properly meet the information needs of professionals. Subscription models built on restricted supplies of content don’t reflect digital realities.
The problem isn’t coming up with new ways of telling stories. The problem is the business model that underlies news organizations. The solution won’t come from another new ad format or another Snowfall. It needs to come from the way the entire news organization functions. We believe this can only come from a complete focus on serving the user, and building technology from the ground up that allows a company to execute on this vision.
That’s what we are working on at Informerly.