Time Inc finds publishing's Holy Grail in data

Global CDO of iconic publisher opens a window to new strategy

Time Inc finds publishing's Holy Grail in data

Time Inc, the 93-year-old, $3.28-billion, US-based publishing house with over 90 magazines under its umbrella, including the iconic Time and Sports Illustrated, is looking at data analytics as a pivot to build a new business model.

In an interaction with Deccan Herald, Time Inc Chief Data Officer (Advertising and Consumer Data Solutions) J T Kostman said the company is transforming itself into a content and services firm giving primacy to data analytics.

“Our CEO Joe Ripp (Joseph A Ripp) has made it clear that data is critically important and it should be in the forefront of our strategy. It equals everything we do. And so I was appointed as the first Chief Data Officer in the history of Time Inc to leverage that data to serve our audience,” he said.

Kostman said the CEO believes the entire future of the company is dedicated to data analytics by focusing on three areas. “First, it adds to our revenue by addressing our advertiser interests more effectively than anything else by serving the right advertisement at the right place, and at the right time. Second, it also increases our user base. And finally, data itself is a business.”

In two years, Time Inc will be content-agnostic in that it will offer content in every medium. Further, data can describe, understand, predict, and influence behaviour of the end-user. “Through analytics, we will know our users’ tastes better. We will be able to serve them exactly what they want. As a consequence of that perspective and those capabilities that we’ve developed, we are going to establish proprietary technology,” he said.

Created its own tools
When asked about the tools for analytics, he said the company has created its own tools that didn’t exist before. “One of the challenges I have for my team is that if the tool doesn’t exist to meet the need, they will invent it. We have a vice president of data science innovation, whose job is to create new tools, new capabilities, new perspectives that we can use to advance our agenda,” he said.

“I am a data scientist, a mathematician, and a psychologist. The work of my group is exactly at the intersection of those three fields to provide extraordinary insights into not just behaviour, but cognition,” he said.

He said the company has identified the verticals where data can be used effectively. “They include health, beauty, auto, pharmaceuticals, lifestyle, travel, sports, and finance,” he said. Commenting on the company’s inorganic growth strategy, he said, “It’s not necessarily growth by acquisition. We will acquire companies if they add to our capabilities.”

Time Inc, with its legacy systems, is a repository of disintegrated data, literally across the globe. “And so one of the first things I did was to bring that data together and integrate it. To use the metaphor of water, if we took all the water in little puddles and we created one lake, that’s where the animals come to drink. My data scientists, my analysts go where the water is. And so we bring all that together.” On the hiring front, he said the company has given him a free hand to hire people as per requirement. “Currently, we have around 100 data scientists globally. We have the mandate to hire up to 200.”

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