How publishers can implement a CDP to improve customer experience and support ecommerce

Dennis Publishing walks through their transformation using BlueConic.

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“You need to understand who your audience is and you’ve got to leverage that data to fulfill whatever your objectives are as a business,” said Pete Wootton, Chief Product & Data Officer for U.K. and U.S.-based Dennis Publishing, at our recent MarTech conference.

To meet increasing competition in the publishing industry, publishers are boosting their data strategy to maximize reader engagement, as well as ad performance and revenue. Dennis Publishing, known for The Week, implemented a customer data platform (CDP) from BlueConic. “It’s really an instrumental part of our product strategy,” said Wootton, “making sure that we understand audiences and know how to translate those audiences into the business.”

Dennis Publishing’s goals included improving advertising, affiliate programs, subscriptions and ecommerce plays. Wootton was responsible for getting the entire company on board with the data transformation, and for meeting the demands of readers and advertisers with the new technology.

Demands for deeper engagement

“We have a big ad business and, increasingly, advertisers want to have relationships on a deeper basis with audiences and want to understand your audience better,” said Wootton.

The company also intended to increase subscriptions and revenue from ecommerce.

“You need to make sure you’ve got really good insights into your audience,” Wootton explained. “You need to leverage that data in order to maximize the opportunity. So collecting data, understanding how readers behave, what they’re interested in, that allows you to sell products to them.”

He added, “You really need good quality data and you need to have a single customer view, then be able to link that to offline data, including names and addresses, contractual information, everything else.”

Change management

“I would say that we spend a lot of time talking at the strategic level with the whole business about what we were trying to achieve,” said Wootton. “So if you want people to be engaged, it’s the old adage to win ‘hearts and minds.’”

He added, “There’s no point just giving people new tools or capabilities. You have to take them on the journey with you. It’s not just the people who are actually going to be affected [by the technology] but a much wider facet of the business.”

Once the publisher had landed on a CDP, Wootton also made the decision to enable some functionality across the entire org, but also drill down and transform a few of the individual titles in the publisher’s portfolio first, before enacting broader changes throughout the company.

Personalized experience using customer data

One of the first improvements Dennis Publishing made once they had better centralized customer data was to customize the experience for readers on their webpages.

“We’re changing elements on the page, and we initially thought about it as an extension of our marketing activities —  how we were going to use overlays, models and more traditional marketing techniques to leverage the data that we had.”

For instance, something as simple as understanding that a particular reader was already a subscriber helped the company avoid the embarrassing experience of trying to sell the reader another subscription.

“We’ve seen some real benefits in how we manipulate our on-page activity by having widgets and other elements on the page which are completely defined by the information we have about that particular user,” said Wootton.

This data-driven personalization also fueled new email and audience extension campaigns.


“We have an ecommerce business which sells cars and we can prioritize the sort of products that we offer that individual depending on their behavior,” Wootton said. “Obviously we want to prioritize and promote those brands and those products based on what sort of content [the reader has] been consuming on the media sites.”

For instance, readers who are reading about hatchbacks or sports cars on the Dennis Publishing media and news sites might be more inclined to buy those same models on the ecommerce site.

With this centralized data, the publisher can deliver a more relevant experience that also generates more opportunity, if not revenue, for advertisers.

Watch the full presentation from our MarTech conference below.

About the author

Chris Wood
Chris Wood draws on over 15 years of reporting experience as a B2B editor and journalist. At DMN, he served as associate editor, offering original analysis on the evolving marketing tech landscape. He has interviewed leaders in tech and policy, from Canva CEO Melanie Perkins, to former Cisco CEO John Chambers, and Vivek Kundra, appointed by Barack Obama as the country's first federal CIO. He is especially interested in how new technologies, including voice and blockchain, are disrupting the marketing world as we know it. In 2019, he moderated a panel on "innovation theater" at Fintech Inn, in Vilnius. In addition to his marketing-focused reporting in industry trades like Robotics Trends, Modern Brewery Age and AdNation News, Wood has also written for KIRKUS, and contributes fiction, criticism and poetry to several leading book blogs. He studied English at Fairfield University, and was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. He lives in New York.

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