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Content Aware media news: February 15, 2024

The value balance between data, content, and relationships

Published: 08:31, 16 February 2024
You can do more with your precious data than give it to robots

An interesting conversation broke out this week at Glide, around a project helping publishers measure the value of their own data.

Hmm. What data?

To get to the root of it, one needs to understand what one actually means by ‘data’, and also ‘content’. And also to be aware that different people see data and content in different ways: this is one of those tech people versus content people discussions!

Doing so can help publishers get to the right answer on where the value actually is.

And if they know that, they can work towards getting value from it.

Structured data vs data vs content vs stuff

We at Glide recently mounted a campaign targeted at publishers asking them to assess and consider how best to utilise what in technical spheres is called “structured data”.

Why did we do that? Well, to quote Leslie Nielsen, we make a technology that allows publishers to use and leverage said structured data really easily, versus building or buying horrendously expensive specialist tools to try and make the best use of it, but that’s not important now.

More relevantly, if a publisher has a poor grasp of what structured data is, why should they care? Where’s the appeal of a promise to help make structured data easier to make money from if you don’t think you have any of it?

Despite its unglamorous term, structured data is often the root of where a publisher’s value is to their readers. If you make good use of your structured data, you become compelling places for your audiences to turn to. It can drive subscriptions, loyalty, and revenue.

So what is structured data?

Some publishers can answer the structured data value question extremely accurately, because they know instantly what’s meant by the term.

But many really struggle - even though they have lots of it - because the term structured data often means next to nothing to the editorial people that typically create and control it. In fact, they may even sit on it and hide it away!

Google, in its documentation advising how best to build sites in ways that allow Google to categorise sites better, helpfully says: “Structured data is a standardized format for providing information about a page and classifying the page content; for example, on a recipe page, what are the ingredients, the cooking time and temperature, the calories, and so on.”

Ah, that’s starting to make sense. It’s the data that is often beneath the story. If Google can read it, they can put it in search results. If it is structured well, they can read it better and maybe feature it in results better. Nice.

So that’s how structured data is useful to Google, but what does it mean to publishers and readers?

To me, not overly technical and more of a content person, structured data is basically the sort of stuff that can be put in a list and pointed at to help readers make decisions or get a feel for a world.

Share prices, product reviews, ratings, lists, results, ingredients, charts, analytics, that sort of stuff. Pretty much any real or derived data point that could be used to drive graphic elements or tables, or used to inform or drive decisions and help form opinions.

In other words, the stuff readers will often pay for if they are really into something and wanted to have the best information to hand, that is not the traditional editorial content of which an article is made. Or, if they aren’t paying for it directly, it’s the information that can make your publication measurably better than some other publication, at least as far as your readers are concerned.

Now we’re getting somewhere! I’ve worked in places that had LOADS of that sort of stuff, oodles of it, and would make whole editions or titles based on snapshots or updates of those sorts of data. And audiences would buck their buying habits to engage massively with those special editions, annuals, definitive lists, however you packaged it.

And so it is for enormous numbers of publishers, especially those in B2B or subscriptions spaces.

We just never called is structured data. It was, well, reviews, listings, trends, data, content, all mixed up in terminology and treatment. You know, stuff!

Turning stuff into something that could form the basis for a publication’s short- or long-term business strategy was the job of specialist writers and editors, and latterly specialist technologies and specialist developers.

So, aside from all that techno stuff, what then is YOUR most valuable structured data?

What do you do with it?

And who makes or sources it?

As we fight to retain or even increase our relevancy to audiences, in the face of Google, AI, et al, all claiming to have the best data on anything you can think of, matching your specialist people and your specialist data to your audiences is one of the biggest steps you can take to make the relationship with them stand the test of time.

Anyway, speaking of specialist people…

Two sides of the same coin - but one might be shinier than the other
Specialists and generalists work side by side at any publication of note. The skill of turning a meh story into an ooh story is a specialist skill in itself, says our Special One Rob, but which will be more at risk in the scary world of tomorrow's media where the expert voice is more valuable by the day?
Read more

Inspired by not copied from

A setback for creators and authors hoping to prevent the use of their work by AI to train the models behind the tech.
Read more

It's not about sending a message, it's about winning
While much of media feels a bit doomy gloomy, the future for organisations that show vigour and verve in an entrepreneurial mindset is always rosier than those who do not. Does that include your media company? Dominic Young looks on.
Read more

Backgrounders and mighty reads
Been asleep for a year? Here's three ground-up summaries of three of the largest issues facing the media industry, with contemporary commentary and contributions. Set aside an evening to consume and cogitate.

Columbia Journalism Review: Artificial Intelligence in the News: How AI Retools, Rationalizes, and Reshapes Journalism and the Public Arena

The New Yorker: Is the media prepared for an extinction level event?

Media, Ads, and Commerce: The creator era is here aka What can Taylor Swift teach media businesses?

Advice
Why do subscribers drop off the balance sheets and turn away from what they once loved enough to sign up for? INMA studies the polls, surmises, and advises.
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The end of the cookie explained
Read more

Google-ish news
Sick of seeing AI bilge encroach on your patch and outrank you? Sounds like Google will at least attempt to clamp down on it.
SEO Roundtable: Google Will Clarify Use Of AI To Generate Content For SEO Purposes

Fake reviews reviewed and rejected.
Search Engine Land: Google says it took down 45% more fake reviews in 2023 thanks to new algorithm

How Reddit won the search game.
Detailed: The Discussion Forums Dominating 10,000 Product Review Search Results

Learning: Webinars worth their weight
The UK Professional Publishers Association slates a session to bring you up to speed on what recent changes in data regulation enforcement mean for publishers.
Read more

Since getting one-on-one time with the two of the world's top news SEO specialists is difficult, this webinar by search results superstars Barry Adams and John Shehata on advanced tech SEO for news sites is invaluable.
Read more

SEO help from the community - in aid of pets!
Read more

Read this as Substack.

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