There’s no question that industry advancements are making it necessary to inspect our research methods and contemplate the role of Big Data at companies. It has brought up numerous concerns, including: What is the right data to have? What is the best way to leverage it? How should media companies staff for it? How should we manage and organize it? Where does it fit in with other data sources? How do we turn data and insights into action?

These are the same questions our marketing partners have been asking, but I want to focus on the media company perspective.

When it comes to our industry, the myriad of conversations on the topic are missing one important detail -- the future of data is already here. Data has undergone an evolution; yes, it may be a forced evolution but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. In fact, as a result of customizable information and the time-shifting and play-shifting of media consumption, the consumer is now in the driver’s seat -- and there is actually no better time to be a data person. The most progressive companies -- and I am proud to say that iHeartMedia is one of them, if not the leader -- recognize that media companies are data companies and have quietly begun to gather the right data, examine the best ways for it to make sense with other sources and, most importantly, uncover how to turn it into value for their advertising partners.

These companies are embracing the new principles of the brave new world of data, which include:        

  • Creating deep cross company collaboration between insights, business intelligence and technical functions;
  • Understanding the “openness” of data, specifically the need to possess your own valuable data, as well as strategically tap into a range of other parties;
  • Digitizing broadcast data by using advanced techniques to compile as much knowledge of your broadcast consumer as your digital consumer;
  • Getting outside help when needed, whether it is hiring consultants or strategic investments;
  • Communicating in 21st century appropriate ways by trading in long PowerPoint presentations for real-time dashboards and data visualization to customize your story “in the meeting;”
  • And, most importantly, holding yourself accountable for delivering client results.

At iHeartMedia, we’ve focused on moving away from the flat data sets of the past by applying the principles of digital data to our broadcast entities and creating models that explain to our advertising partners how our research translates to real life. In the past year, we announced two groundbreaking programs that were the direct result of our goal of bringing the most actionable intelligence to advertisers.

In June 2014, we launched AuDiO, a first-of-its-kind radio optimization tool that enables political campaigns to precisely identify the voter segments that are most crucial in key election districts using information from the 245 million monthly listeners of iHeartMedia’s 858 U.S. broadcast radio stations. AuDiO addresses a critical need, not just for political advertisers, but for the radio industry as a whole.

And this past March we announced the radio industry’s first programmatic, real-time ad buying platform, which allows iHeartMedia to apply our rich data and insights to the planning process and utilize data sets to enable unique forms of targeting. Programmatic -- the use of technology and audience insights to evaluate, buy and run ad campaigns in an automated way -- is already an important and expected method of ad buying in the digital space. Our programmatic platform streamlines the buying process, which in turn will allow our clients to focus on capitalizing on radio’s unprecedented 6:1 ROI.

The future of the data and insights shouldn’t cause anxiety -- instead, its progression is one of the most exciting elements of media today.  As Gayle Fuguitt, CEO/President at ARF, noted at their Retailing of the Future event in Bentonville, AR, data and insights people now have the opportunity to evolve from being the smartest person in the room into the most influential person in the room.

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