Audience Data Analysis According to CNN’s VP of Digital Research and Analytics
What: For audience data analysis, CNN blends and analyzes multiple data streams that reveal its audience’s preferences. Thus, the world-renowned news organization produces content that keeps viewers coming back.
Why it matters: CNN’s VP of digital research and analytics Seth Holladay outlines the challenge of finding the right data and analytical tools to ensure that content engages loyal viewers and attracts new ones.
Audience data analysis tools
Cookies are not enough when it comes to a complete understanding of your audience, according to CNN’s VP of digital research and analytics Seth Holladay. In other words, the bits of data stored on users’ web browsers provide only a partial picture of CNN fans’ interests and viewing habits.
To really know its audience, CNN turns to multiple data streams gathered from its own online properties and third-party data sources. For example, this includes Google and Alexa voice-activated speakers. Moreover, it analyzes users’ behavior on CNN's websites, Holladay told Portada during a sit-down interview at Portada Miami.
CNN uses multiple sources of data and data analysis tools to inform its editorial, advertising, and content strategies. “We watch how people are interacting with our content,” Holladay said.
For instance, one tool CNN uses for audience data analysis is Adobe Analytics, to track users' interaction with CNN’s websites. But cookies aren’t enough. Thus, CNN also uses third-party data sources, like Comscore, to better understand its audience demographics.
Third-party data and other data sources
“Across the CNN portfolio, we cover a lot of topics. Comscore for the U.S. market allows us to understand the demographics of our viewers,” Holladay told Portada. “We take a lot of our really granular Adobe-level data, users’ actions on our website, and within that we are blending in different types of data using a lot of third-party sources to enrich that data.”
Audience information drawn from third parties includes data from Alexa and Google Home smart speakers that, while not directly connected to CNN, still provides valuable insights, Holladay said.
We have increasing interest from Hispanic audiences across the world in what is happening in the U.S.
Connecting the dots with mobile
To further close gaps in audience data analysis, CNN looks at data drawn from consumers’ mobile advertising IDs. “There is an ability to connect the dots with mobile advertising IDs, what people are doing and the online behavior data from Adobe, and then match those with the advertising side to create a richer picture of the audience,” Holladay explained.
CNN has a “number of initiatives underway” to deploy AI and machine learning to analyze the data it collects. But human decision making is still a key component of how CNN uses data to guide its content decisions.
“From a business perspective, at our core we are a news service. We have a lot of editorial oversight so that will remain the main driver in our decision making.”
CNN en español allows CNN to isolate the Hispanic audience in a unique and discreet way, Holladay noted.
And the current political climate in the U.S. has turned into a plus for driving new Hispanic viewers to CNN’s properties.
We are blending lots of different data.
“What we have now is a platform for people that want to consume news in both languages. We have an increasing interest from Hispanic audiences across the world in what is happening in the US,” Holladay told Portada.
Moreover, CNN en español also allows the news network to draw a deep understanding of content preferences in the different countries in Latin America where it is available. This is also very useful for audience data analysis.
“One of the most basic things we collect is the geography of the user,” Holladay said.
Informing editorial decisions
First, CNN collects and analyzes “tons of signals” to understand its visitors. The company examines what digital properties they're clicking on, what causes them to leave a site, and their digital touchpoints.
Then, it deploys a real-time dashboard to give its editorial professionals a true picture of the impact of content. In this way, they see “what types of topics and subjects resonate with different types of audiences,” Holladay said.