Finding Revenue Opportunities in Your Data

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I still recall three years ago attending a workshop on creating data products given by Russell Perkins of InfoCommerce Group. His lets-build-an-almost-real-data-product example came from a government list of certified organic companies that sounded glowingly real and public. He showed us the list, how you can structure the data and add to it, what audience the data can serve, and how to create a product from it.

He called data products a "natural complement to most B2B companies." Fast forward to today, however, and while data products remain that natural complement, they probably haven't proliferated among smaller publishers the way Perkins might have hoped.

David Foster, CEO of Business Valuation Resources, will shed a product-focused light upon this topic when he presents a keynote at SIPA Annual 2018 titled Data Monetization: Inspired Strategies to Compete with Big Data. As usual, Foster has been ahead of the times, with BVR having a director of data valuation and many data initiatives over the last few years.

"None of us spend as much time as we need to envisioning data products that solve specific problems," Foster said. "Meanwhile, so many new market entrants have figured out ways to process results in real time and then build services around that information. Hearing these stories, with all their buzzwords, can scare niche information companies into inaction.

"All the focus is still on huge data and AI—Facebook testifies before Congress and we think 'what's left for us?' In fact, the field remains wide open to provide value by creative analysis by market-knowledgable experts. It's what we've always done. We best add value to data in the same ways we've always thrived—with superior product plans for content extraction, refinement and delivery."

Perkins, who also used the word "creative" to describe the data business, named value as a major ingredient in his data product recipe. "The data business is about value not volume," he said. "It's not a quick buck undertaking." I would doubt that his five-step process for creating a data product has changed much:

  1. identify the opportunity;
  2. validate it;
  3. collect the data;
  4. build the product;
  5. take the product to market.

"The best opportunity is a combination of 2 elements—organic need and leveraged development and deployment," Perkins said. "That opportunity bubbles up from the industry itself; ...find the pain point that needs to be solved."

Above all, he said, don't skip the validation step. "Talk to your market, get input from editorial, sales people, customer service. Once you've identified the opportunities, talk one-on-one to potential customers. You'll talk about concept A, and they'll want concept B. The value to the market may be different from what you assume."

Of course, monetizing your data is not simple. In a recent article on the Information Week site, David Schatsky, managing director at Deloitte, said that, "It's a question of the holy grail because we know we have a lot of data. [The first thought is] let's go off and monetize it, but [people] have to ask themselves the fundamental questions right now of how they're going to use it: How much data do they have? Can they get at it? And, can they use it in the way they have in mind?"

But Foster warns against being intimidated by big data talk. "When someone says 'big data,' the gut reaction of many publishers is to shy away. But, in fact, any time I hear someone from one of the big platforms or publishing houses use that term, I know they've just left the playing field wide open for me, doing 'small data' products.

"If all I was looking for was big data, I never would have seen [past] revenue opportunities."

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…