Data, for example, is the backbone of programmatic ad buying—the antithesis of native or more custom ad solutions that are becoming so popular lately, but growing rapidly nonetheless. A recent report by eMarketer notes that 70 percent of marketers are already doing some form of programmatic buying.And while publishers worry that programmatic ad buying will eat into their ability to maintain premium CPM pricing and direct sales relationships, some have jumped feet-first into the game.Hearst, Condé Nast and, more recently, IDG have all launched private ad exchanges that offer RTB (real time bidding) ad models. And in every one of these cases, it should be noted, they’re also providing organized native advertising services on the other end of the spectrum.“That’s where you see media companies moving aggressively toward,” says Michael Friedenberg, president and CEO of IDG Enterprise. “Coupling premium data services with programmatic.”Linking Data ProductsBut in other areas of b-to-b publishing, companies are combining the data they collect from audience demographics, purchasing behavior and engagement with dedicated market research to form powerful connections between audience action and trend data.Summit Business Media, which serves the financial services, legal and insurance markets, has the usual media setup—print, digital, live events—for its various brands, but also has a data products group that conducts a large amount of research on the verticals it tracks.Key to Summit’s strategy is connecting the audience data from its media products with the data that comes out of the research division which, says chief audience officer Peter Westerman, can offer a powerful marketing platform for both Summit’s own product sales as well as lead-gen and marketing services for advertising customers.“We’re somewhat unique in that under one roof we have the data we collect from our media audience members, which we can combine with the data assets we have in our data products group,” he says.The trick has been to connect the audience database with the data products. “We’ve made an assumption in our architecture that our centralized audience database is always going to be bi-directionally communicating with the databases that have been purpose-built as products,” he adds.Going forward, Westerman says the plan is to continue to blend data to provide predictive marketing capabilities as well as integrate Marketo’s platform to enable trigger-based and continuity marketing.Investments on the Rise“Investment has steadily been increasing,” says Westerman. “It’s not just software and technology, but people too—reporting and analytics. We’re at the end now of the big first stage, which is to bring all the data together. The costs there were primarily homogenizing and cleaning it up and building the warehouse. We’re now moving into investments for analytics and predictive marketing.”The second stage will be to use the technology to drive more paid-for product sales and digital spin-offs, says Westerman.For other publishers, a particular data focus has been on marrying the largely unidentified digital audience with the known universe of controlled circ customers.Data to PersonalizeAt CFE Media, which serves the industrial engineering markets, the focus has been on leveraging a registration wall to link website visitors with existing subscribers.The company works with GCN, using its ONECount platform to link and identify audience engagement metrics across platforms. “It allows us to know when a good bunch of people are on the website, but we really want to work on ways to engage our audience and document that,” says Rick Ellis, CFE’s director of audience management. “We’re in the process of getting more folks to log onto our website so we can correlate the data with what they’re doing.” Using the GCN platform, CFE has put its websites behind a registration wall, which collects basic reader data.Next year, like Summit, Ellis wants to link the data that’s collected from the website registrations to a trigger marketing platform. “It’s a slightly different model than Marketo, which is based on trying to make a sale. I want to feed people more of the content they like,” he says.Accordingly, the revenue focus will be on the reader. Ellis sees opportunities, once his digital customer universe becomes more clear, to introduce more paid content products. But the ability to connect a name to specific areas of engagement opens up many more sponsorship opportunities as well.Ellis foresees an ability to score customer behavior based on the content they engage with, enabling a more robust lead-gen operation. This may sound obvious, but data is now at the heart of just about every action publishers and advertisers make. There appears to be no end to the data sources and the appetite publishers and brands have for it. Data drives every decision, from the content we produce to the viability and subsequent success or failure of a marketing campaign. As a result, publishers are building out systems to house and organize that data, as well as their ability to act on it.Publishers are collecting and organizing data for two primary purposes: For their own customer research and marketing and that of their advertisers and sponsors. Indeed, brands themselves are continuing to expand their own data collection and analysis, which, among other trends, is fueling the whole content marketing boom.“Everything that drives integrated marketing starts with data,” said Bruce Biegel, a senior managing director at media and marketing consulting firm Winterberry Group, during a recent client summit for data information services provider Merit Direct.Biegel’s insight into the brand side of the data trends is revealing in that it highlights what brands value in terms of how they’re targeting their marketing.