Winner of 38 Pulitzer Prizes for outstanding journalism, The Wall Street Journal covers U.S. and world news, politics, arts, culture, lifestyle, sports, health and more. Its content has long been a must-read for high net worth audiences, including the world’s most influential decision makers. With a history of affluent subscribers, the publication is uniquely positioned to develop impactful audience segments for its advertiser clients. So when its advertising division, known as The Wall Street Journal | Barron’s Group (WSJ | BG), set out to maximize the efficiency of their ad campaigns, it decided to leverage its own first-party data. This approach also factored heavily into the organization’s long-term strategy.
Given the ongoing changes in the ad industry, WSJ | BG knew that first-party data offered a secure and privacy-safe way to help advertisers reach their premium audiences with relevant messages. “Publishers have no choice but to adapt to the cookieless reality,” says David Minkin, SVP of Strategic Planning & Delivery and GM of The Exchange — WSJ | BG’s dedicated ad tech team. “It’s an existential threat to any business or individual relying on third-party data to drive marketing, advertising, or innovation.”
The right foundation for high-impact audience segmentation
As one of the first subscription-based companies, Dow Jones, WSJ’s parent company, has over four million subscribers across its titles, over three million of which are digital. With a solid foundation to better understand their affluent audience, the organization aimed to increase the performance of their advertiser’s media buys.
“Efficient media buying means more performance bang for the buck for our advertisers, particularly relative to a “spray and pray” approach which doesn’t rely on data-driven ads.”
, SVP of Strategic Planning & Delivery and GM, The Exchange
Investment and innovation for cutting-edge solutions
Across the business, teams came together to support a unified first-party data approach. WSJ | BG’s leadership prioritized the efforts, and departments streamlined teamwork and communication to work better together. “When it comes to first-party data, we now have formal collaboration across news, membership, and advertising at a level and in ways previously unseen within the organization,” says Minkin.
In addition to this widespread support, The Exchange team is focused on developing a product suite that leverages first-party data to deliver effective solutions for WSJ | BG’s advertiser clients. These solutions include: Thematic, a patented taxonomy tool to gauge user intent and serve advertiser messaging against 65+ distinct themes; Safesuite, which uses context and sentiment analysis to align advertiser messages in brand-suitable environments; and Insite, which is used to unlock insights across audiences, content, and platforms to develop media recommendations.
By investing heavily in these Dow Jones audience products, WSJ | BG accelerated its first-party data roadmap across user engagement, data governance, audience creation, and several other key factors.
“Publishers need to build large, paying audiences that they can understand and segment for advertisers. They also need to show real value and performance to readers, agencies, and brands.”
, Chief Revenue Officer, Wall Street Journal
Audiences and activation with Google Ad Manager
WSJ | BG works with Ad Manager and their data management platform to build audience segments in one of two ways: via attribution or context. Attribution-based segments are developed using subscriber information, such as industry or title that’s captured during registration processes. Contextual segments are built by looking at the content that readers view and engage with.
Once segments are developed, WSJ | BG markets them to clients via direct and private marketplace deals. To help streamline their direct deals process, WSJ | BG made all segments visible in their order management system. Once a data-driven deal is struck, many of the first-party segments are pushed to Ad Manager using Publisher Provided Identifiers (PPIDs), where the Ad Ops team traffics the ads and pushes them live.
Accelerating adoption of first-party data campaigns
WSJ | BG’s premium first-party insights are rooted in its audience: a rare, concentrated readership of business decision makers that’s hard to reach in volume elsewhere on the web. Because of this, advertisers have responded strongly to their offer, and today, 7 out of 10 audience segments that the Journal sells are built or informed using first-party data. A more insightful indicator of WSJ | BG’s first-party data performance may be their repeat purchase rate among advertisers who run data-driven campaigns. In 2021, advertisers whose campaigns leveraged the Journal’s first-party data were 37% more likely to run another campaign versus those whose campaigns didn’t.
Despite these results, WSJ | BG continues to innovate for their advertisers. “As the world changes, we’ll continue to use first-party data solutions that deliver relevant ad experiences for our audience while delivering strong results for our advertisers,” says Minkin.