Audience First: How ALM is Scaling First Party Data to Better Compete with Social Media and Third-Party Providers

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Editor’s Note: On Sept. 26 at 11am ET, Connectiv’s Digital Media Council will host ALM’s Matt Weiner and Joann Kropp talking about how ALM put its first-party data to work and created Audience First. The meeting can be attended remotely. All Connectiv members are welcome. Click here to register or email

Business-to-business publishers have realized for a while now that the biggest competitive threats to ad dollars are no longer fellow publishers but social media platforms and third-party data platforms claiming to reach the publisher’s audience and more, on a much larger scale, for far lower cost.

With the tidal wave of data privacy regulation (CASL, GDPR, California Data Privacy and slew of others) on the horizon, many are predicting the decline of third party data (whether true or wishful thinking remains to be seen) but the fact is, to stay competitive, publishers need to scale their reach with high value first party data beyond their own websites and communities.

Last month, ALM introduced Audience First, an advertising platform that targets decision makers and influencers through first-party data and self-reported demographic data and then uses advanced ad technology to drive those messages to audience segments on both ALM channels and beyond.

“We looked at where budgets are going and where our customers are going,” says Matt Weiner, President of Marketing Services at ALM Media. “The B2B media approach has always been ‘we own our markets, we have strong communities, we know who makes up those communities.’ Yes, we probably have the most contextually relevant environment. But we know that’s not enough anymore. Our customers are saying ‘That’s great, but I’m looking to leverage first party data to target individuals both on and off your sites.”

Audience First offers job function and topic-based contextual targeting from the start and is now rolling out account-based marketing on request, third party firmographics that can include industry classification, sales volume, employee size and other data.

It’s the latest addition to ALM’s data-driven product strategy, which includes Fusion, an engagement marketing solution that drives brand affinity, engages clients through content and influences the buying cycle.

Unlike Fusion, which is a multi-month nurturing program, customers can start seeing immediate benefits from Audience First, which can be leveraged as a standalone or as a component to an existing marketing campaign.

“Our go-to-market strategy was for it to fit down into the customer’s marketing plans,” says Joann Kropp, Vice President of Product and Strategy, who recently joined ALM from Informa to lead ALM’s data-driven push.  “We can also use it as a win-back for clients who haven’t been spending money.”

Not Just Retargeting

The ALM team is quick to point out that Audience First is not just simple retargeting.

“Retargeting allows for an anonymous user to be followed based on cookies,’” says Weiner. “If I am identifying a specific individual and targeting that individual, you can see where the value starts to increase.”

“The fact that we are using first party data, which is permissioned, allows us to use targeting on social sites versus relying on the way social sites are tracking which becomes like a third-party cookie,” adds Kropp. “We are leveraging value of first party data because advertisers and agencies don’t know how long third-party data will be around and it’s not performing as well as it used to.”

While Audience First is more expensive than retargeting, pricing is typically lower than for an ALM run-of-site campaign and could be as much as 15 percent to 30 percent below rate card, according to Kropp.

“Our core business is still contextually relevant onsite advertising,” says Kropp. “Audience First is a premium product, which is why when you compare this to retargeting it’s much more expensive because we know who we are targeting rather than following anonymous viewers.”

B2B Finally Combines Scale with Relevance?

In the platform age, B2B media has had to contend with advertisers balking at paying higher prices for smaller audiences in a limited universe. By owning its audience not just on its own platforms but beyond, ALM hopes to take back the power by adding that missing ingredient—scale.   

“The argument was, B2B didn’t have scale and we aren’t cheap and we were competing with platforms and third parties that said, ‘We have their audience, we have the scale and we can give it to you cheaper,’” says Weiner. “Now advertisers are starting to realize platforms and third-data providers are struggling to actually deliver that audience. This leverages what we already own and creates more scale.”

Matt Matt Kinsman is vice president of content + programming at Connectiv, the only association focused on the integrated b-to-b model—including publications, events, digital media, marketing services and business information. Prior to joining Connectiv's predecessor American Business Media in 2011, Kinsman was executive editor of Folio:, the leading information provider for the magazine industry.