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The Sun's digital marketing director on audience segmentation and profiling

Michael Somerville

Audience segmentation and profiling is a key battleground for mobile marketers as personalisation continues to grow in importance in the industry.

Tabloid news publisher The Sun is using audience segmentation and profiling tech to see a more detailed picture of its audience following a period of online growth since its paywall was removed four years ago in 2015.

Monetisation strategy
Digital marketing director (interim) of The Sun, Paul Hood, spoke at DigiTech Day London on Thursday 28 March about the techniques and tools that it is implementing to know its audience so it can monetise more effectively.

90 per cent of The Sun online readers browse on mobile, possibly because of the papers’ late entry to desktops browsing and its paywall (removed in 2015) which originally deterred desktop visits.

Games and quizzes driving engagement
To drive engagement and personalisation, the Sun has created and delivered daily content related quizzes and predictor games on web and mobile to deepen reader engagement and increase the number of page views per visit. 'If someone's done a quiz you will know their age, gender and what their interests are so you can then feed that back to advertisers. So the next time they visit the advertising will be more relevant,' he says.

Hood also shared the difference of average page views between an off-platform user, a registered user and a user being fed personalised content on its apps.

The Sun's data on page views per customer segment

Off-platform 3.5 page views (PV) a month 
On-platform 6.4 PV
Registered 30.6 PV
Personalised 88.5 PV

The Sun uses NewsUK's data ad platform NewsIQ which aggregates all its audience data and allows advertisers to target users based on three data points - preference, opinion and emotion. This could be anything from their opinion on Brexit to their favourite footballer in the Premier League, which it discovers by giving readers to option to react using an emotion, a la Facebook.

Hood says his priorities for 2019 will be to continue segmenting and profiling the 30m people who read The Sun each month. 

“We're looking to introduce a much broader suite of paid and registration proposals across on The Sun for the year ahead.  We'll continue to develop digital journies for some of our most well-loved and popular franchises, like Holidays from £9.50, as well as introducing new propositions. For example, just last month we launched Sun Racing, a destination for Horse racing fans that combines best in class content with betting opportunities".

Once a user is logged in and is receiving personalised advertising, the Sun will push offers from partners such as energy switcher Switchcraft which, if successful will mean revenue for the Sun in transaction fees.

“Logged in users are worth twice as much than non-logged in users,” says Hood.

Case study: The Sun Racing

To secure a valuable customer onto the app, Hood used the customer journey of:

  • An 'unknown' Google's Cheltenham runners & riders and clicks on a Sun story organically.
  • The Sun uses Tealium and KRUX tags to track user. They read two articles about horse racing and leave.
  • User is spotted on Facebook next day and is targeted with five pages on Sun Racing content teasers using LiveRamp, NewsIQ and KRUX tags and they click on the article (s).
  • Reader reads an article about the Cheltenham Festival and completes a poll about the top three horses and enters email for a free £2.50 bet. Qualtrics, Voice of the Fan and Wayin powers this exchange.
  • The Sun then emails a code and link for a free bet which is offered to be doubled if done through the Sun racing app.
  • The user then installs the app and become a 'known' and therefore marketable.

This process can make a user up to 180 times for valuable than if they had just read an article and left the site without being tracked.

He adds: “We see it that there's always got to be a value exchange so we'll only seek additional information from people if it improves the experience that we can offer them.”

He also spoke of the importance of first-party data to marketers which has consent from consumers because of Apple's recent decision to prevent cross-site tracking on its Safari browser.

Watch the below video on personalised marketing