The insights shared below are the product of special sessions of the GNI Data Lab, where we invite expert practitioners, including from within our cohort, to speak on key important topics relevant to data success. 

Through its participation in the Google News Initiative Data Lab — a partnership with Local Media Association and Deloitte Consulting — the Tampa Bay Times is embarking on a journey to transform its digital sales operation through strategic data use.

An initial Deloitte data maturity report laid the foundation for the Times, as well as five other local news publishers (a mix of daily newspapers and TV broadcasters), to incorporate strategic data use across their businesses.

“It’s great to hear from our peers and their successes in the same areas we’re struggling with,” said Conan Gallaty, chief digital officer at the Times. “The fact that our cohort shared many of the same challenges was somewhat surprising. Our problems tend to feel unique, but apparently execution of a good data strategy is difficult everywhere.”

The Times involvement in the GNI lab has allowed the organization to assess their data maturity, and receive specific recommendations for how to upgrade and optimize sales functions. They also received practical applications for improving digital ad revenue performance, with yield and sales-channel enhancements.

The process has led to the recognition of internal prioritization shortcomings and has allowed the Times to pursue new opportunities to adjust.

“We are pushing hard on three key initiatives,” Gallaty said.

1. A data and analytics team for testing.
2. Using the Times’ audience data to leverage better sales of its O&O inventory.
3. Restructuring its team to manage programmatic and O&O inventory through the same teams to maximize yield.

In fact, the Times has already restructured its teams.

“We are making good strides in improving performance,” said Gallaty. “We also have the beginnings of our data and testing team formed and are working on an implementation strategy over the next two months.”

The data maturity report highlighted a fundamental issue for the Times: inventory prioritization for sales reps.

“We sometimes fool ourselves in thinking we’ve given sales reps everything they need to be successful,” Gallaty said. “But it came across clearly that there is a taffy pull: ‘Give me more things that clients want to buy, but make my life simpler so I can be more effective.’ We tend to push to one side.”

The involvement in the data lab has allowed the Times to prioritize its sales menu by looking at overall company ROI and aligning resources to the products that make the most sense. Gallaty and his team are utilizing data to shift focus from typical “flavor of the week/month” sales initiatives to the most important long-term core KPIs.

“What are the most important numbers?” Gallaty said. “It can’t be everything. We need to get down to one — realistically three — important numbers that every sales rep should know.”

Gallaty says the Times is also utilizing its audience data more every day in its daily sales process to better understand the value the Times has to offer its readers, and training its sales reps to better articulate that value.

“We have a lot of work to do,” Gallaty said. “But our organization has the willingness and talents to grow quickly.”

“Being able to display our shortcomings numerically gives us the ability to set target goals and key actions.”

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