In 2015, Winsight acquired Technomic, a provider of primary and secondary market information and advisory services to the food industry, as a way to jump start a data and business intelligence service that could complement Winsight’s media and events properties.
Fast-forward to 2019, and Technomic has become a core part of Winsight’s portfolio. Technomic today generates approximately $30 million annually (representing about 30 percent of Winsight’s total revenue).
Recent executive moves at Winsight highlight the emphasis on Technomic and data and information services as engines for future growth. In August, Winsight named Alanna Young, formerly Winsight’s chief operating officer and a veteran of Hanley Wood’s Metrostudy data business, to president of Technomic.
Winsight also tapped Kurt Reisenberg, a 25-year-veteran of the business intelligence industry (including CEB and Gartner), to the newly created position of president of Winsight.
At the upcoming Business Information & Media Summit (BIMS), Young will deliver a keynote on “How a Data Business Lifts All Boats,” demonstrating how Technomic has not only grown as a standalone business but how it has helped drive new growth for media and events.
Here, Connectiv talks with Young about her new role, how data complements media and why information companies need to approach data as its own business, not just a supplement for media and events.
Connectiv: Alanna, congratulations on your new role. Can you talk about your new responsibilities and your new priorities with Technomic?
Alanna Young: Winsight has three divisions—we own the National Restaurant Association Show which is our Exhibitions business, Technomic and a media and events business.
We are in the business of delivering products and services to help customers be smarter. Those products we have today and the ones in an incubation stage are a lot of what I think about. We have so much information and so much data and we are looking at new ways we bring that to market and embed our intelligence into our customers’ workflows.
When I came to Winsight in 2015, Winsight did not have a data business. I was charged with figuring out if we would buy or build. We ended up closing on Technomic within four months and my role changed to focusing on integration. Technomic had been privately held for close to 50 years and we had an opportunity to think about how we could be running it more efficiently.
Connectiv: What are the specific products offered by Technomic?
Young: We have an online platform called Ignite where the data is syndicated and that includes many of our subscription products. The other part of the business is a smaller, custom consulting business called Advisory.
There are several products within Ignite. Ignite Company offers profiles of restaurant operators that include contact information, revenue and sales data and that shows what type of business they are. This serves anyone interested in selling to those operators or trying to understand the marketplace.
Ignite Consumer offers insight on what consumers think about various restaurant operations. If you have a fast food chain, we survey a consumer panel that provides a look into what they think about your chain, which can include data points such as cleanliness and perceived value.
The third product is called Ignite Menu. This is our most data-heavy product—we collect thousands of menus and identify things like ingredients and emerging flavors. With something like Siracha, we were able to predict the rise in its popularity before it became mainstream.
If you are trying to sell into an operator, you would want to come armed with information about who they are and how your products and services can help them. On the flip side, if you are an operator, you want to know who your customers are, what they are thinking and where else they shop.
Connectiv: What’s the business model with Ignite?
Young: It depends on who we are selling it to. A traditional manufacturer might have interest in all three main components –Company, Consumer and Menu. It can be sold in components--some buy all of it, some buy parts of it. It’s a corporate license and we don’t charge by the seat.
The subscription comes with an account management team that offers a variety of support. Some customers have in-house analytics teams who can extract the data they want from Ignite and they are off to the races with just a subscription. Other customers are looking for more support, so we have an accounts team that offer a variety of services up to a very sophisticated custom market sizing study through our Advisory group. It depends on the complexity of what the customer is trying to figure out.
Connectiv: What’s the ballpark pricing for Ignite?
Young: Products range from a la carte reports that start at $5,000 and can scale to more than $20,000 while compilations of services can run in the six figures. It depends on what you are buying—you can buy profiles of the top 500 restaurants or the top 1,500 restaurants and the price will scale accordingly.
Connectiv: What’s Technomic meant for the media and events business?
Young: It’s been pretty transformative. The media business has gone through significant changes in the past 10 years and ours is no different.
The effect of Technomic has been twofold. In the media business, we have an audience database of millions of contacts who interact with us. Technomic can enrich the profiles of the people in the database. When they run a campaign, advertisers want to target a specific group. Because Technomic can enrich the profiles in the database, we can communicate directly with just the cut of people our customers want to reach. If you want to serve up an ad just to people who menu “pizza,” or menu “chicken,” we can comprise a campaign that targets that specific group. People don’t want to just buy an ad anymore. They want cool packages with unique content to put in front of custom groups, and Technomic’s data empowers our media team to meet those demands.
The other effect is from a pure content perspective. With Technomic, the media business can produce content that nobody else can. It’s wildly cost prohibitive for a standalone media company to maintain the data assets that we do. You need a data business that’s supporting itself. We take cuts of data and repackage it for the media business, so you’ll see things like slide shows on Top Emerging Flavors. One of media’s top performing packages is Technomic’s Top 500, which ranks the top chain restaurants in the United States. From time on site, unique page views, whatever metric you want, it’s one of the best performers.
In the events business, Technomic does a lot of sponsored sessions. We have content that people are truly interested in and we can provide things that you don’t get with a panel of industry leaders. This brings a quantitative perspective as well as education which is compelling.
Connectiv: What’s different between running a data business and a media business?
Young: When you start thinking about a data business, you can’t think of it as a content machine to power your media business. It’s its own business and it requires the type of commitment you would have for any new business. To get value out of a data business, it has to be self-sustaining with its own revenue model. Then you have to figure out how to pull content out of it without cannibalizing the benefit of the data subscription. The model has to be such that you are making enough money on the data business that it can support itself with the byproduct that it helps generate better content for the media business.
All content is not the same. How the content is produced and packaged is not the same. The media audience is coming for news, journalism and insights. People who come for data are looking for more context, translation, instruction and actionable insight. The type of people who run content for media and those who run content for data are different and they have different skillsets. For data, you have to be skilled in research methodology and analytics.
One of lessons we learned early on is, we thought we could just merge Technomic with media from a content perspective. No. It’s not the same—the content is not the same, audiences are not the same, the formatting of information is not the same, but they can be cousins. They can share information back and forth. Data is a great business for media because you can’t beat the content you get from it and the additional intelligence you get from the audience.
Connectiv: What’s next for you and Technomic?
Young: In January 2017, Pamlico Capital took a majority stake in Winsight and one of reasons we did that was to get more of a war chest for acquisitions. We acquired the National Restaurant Association Show last year to round out our foothold in media, events and data. Media, events and data give Winsight great penetration into our markets but the question is, how do we continue to grow? Kurt’s experience is in figuring out how to find more organic growth. We’re looking at enriching our core offerings with additional datasets and insights, and thinking through how to position them for new verticals. For example, Technomic doesn’t play much in technology and we are looking at what we can do there.
The first step is organizing our portfolio, looking at renewal rates and identifying where we want to find that organic growth by launching sibling products to what we have today.