Better Data Management Helps the Toronto Globe and Mail Reach Its Customers

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Have you ever received a new subscription offer from a newspaper or magazine to which you already subscribed? In addition to being an annoyance, sending a superfluous offer to customers increases marketing costs. So why is this happening? The answer is probably because of poor data management. The newspaper most likely was unable to match its existing subscriber list, which it maintained in one place, with another file containing its list of marketing prospects.

The Globe and Mail, based in Toronto, Canada, was one of those publications that had these problems. In print for 167 years, it is Canada’s largest newspaper, with a cumulative six-day readership of nearly 3.3 million. The paper has a very ambitious marketing program, viewing every Canadian household that does not already subscribe as a prospect. But it has had trouble housing and managing the data on these prospects.

Running a major newspaper requires managing huge amounts of data, including circulation data, advertising revenue data, marketing prospect and “do not contact” data, and data on logistics and deliveries. Add to that the data required to run any business, including finance and human resources data.

For many years The Globe and Mail housed much of its data in a mainframe system where the data were not easy to access and analyze. If users needed any information, they had to extract the data from the mainframe and bring it to one of a number of local databases for analysis, including those maintained in Microsoft Access, Foxbase Pro, and Microsoft Excel. This practice created numerous pockets of data maintained in isolated databases for specific purposes but no central repository where the most up-to-date data could be accessed from a single place. With data scattered in so many different systems throughout the company, it was very difficult to cross-reference subscribers with prospects when developing the mailing list for a marketing campaign. There were also security issues: The Globe and Mail collects and stores customer payment information, and housing this confidential data in multiple places makes it more difficult to ensure that proper data security controls are in place.

In 2002, the newspaper began addressing these problems by implementing a SAP enterprise system with a SAP NetWeaver BW data warehouse that would contain all of the company’s data from its various data sources in a single location where the data could be easily accessed and analyzed by business users.

The first data to populate the data warehouse was advertising sales data, which is a major source of revenue. In 2007, The Globe and Mail added circulation data to the warehouse, including delivery data details such as how much time is left on a customer’s subscription and data on marketing prospects from third-party sources. Data on prospects were added to the warehouse as well.

With all these data in a single place, the paper can easily match prospect and customer data to avoid targeting existing customers with subscription promotions. It can also match the data to “do not contact” and delivery area data to determine if a newspaper can be delivered or whether a customer should be targeted with a promotion for a digital subscription.

Despite the obvious benefits of the new data warehouse, not all of The Globe and Mail’s business users immediately came on board. People who were used to extracting data from the mainframe system and manipulating it in their own local databases or file continued to do the same thing after the data warehouse went live. They did not understand the concept of a data warehouse or the need to work towards enterprise-wide data management. The Globe and Mail’s management decided to tackle this new problem by educating its users, especially its marketing professionals, with the value of having all the organization’s data in a data warehouse and the tools available for accessing and analyzing these data.

The Globe and Mail’s new data analysis capabilities produced savings from efficiencies and streamlined processes that paid for the investment in one year. Marketing campaigns that previously took two weeks to complete now only take one day. The newspaper can determine its saturation rates in a given area to guide its marketing plans. And there are fewer complaints from subscribers and potential subscribers about being contacted unnecessarily.

To capitalize further on data management and analytics, The Globe and Mail turned to the cloud. A key business goal for the company was to beef up online content and increase the paper’s digital subscriber base. The Globe and Mail devoted more resources to digital online content, with different subscription rates for online-only customers and print customers. To aggressively court digital subscribers, The Globe and Mail had to mine its clickstream data logging user actions on the Web to target potential digital subscribers based not only on their specific interests but also their interests on a particular day. The volume of data was too large to be handled by the company’s conventional Oracle database. The solution was to use SAP HANA ONE in-memory computing software running on the Amazon Web Services cloud computing platform, which accelerates data analysis and processing by storing data in the computer’s main memory (RAM) rather than on external storage devices. This cloud solution lets The Globe and Mail pay for only what capabilities it uses on an hourly basis.



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