Publishing is way behind other industries when it comes to technology consolidation. Compared with five or six key software platforms in most sectors, it is not uncommon to see publishers running their businesses on tens or even hundreds of separate set ups.
There are clear advantages in leaving this ‘Tech Soup’ behind and migrating to a unified technology platform. For this special Conversations episode, we’re joined by Markus Karlsson, CEO of Affino, the Unified Business Platform for media, publishing and membership organisations, and Steve Hinds, Digital Editor and Product Manager at leading travel news industry site TTG Media.
We discuss the benefits of systems consolidation, from improved operational efficiency to increased profitability, as well as exploring some of the challenges publishers face when looking to consolidate, and how they can get the process started.
Here are some highlights, lightly edited for clarity:
What prompted the consolidation conversation at TTG Media
Steve Hinds: At the time that we were really looking at it, GDPR was coming in, which was obviously a big one. And we were processing a lot of data across lots of different systems, which just was an enormous duplication of effort.
When you’re a small team, like I’m a team of one, so I was across all of the different various digital systems we were using, there was a lot of plates to keep spinning, and it made sense to try to reduce that. Plus, it’s really expensive and time consuming. I was just keen to just simplify, simplify, simplify as much as possible.
Compliance issues with many vendors
Markus Karlsson: We worked with with one media group, and they have between 50 and 60 platforms. Affino is the only platform they use which has a GDPR compliant user API. So that’s the only API that could send across user information and the permissions for the users and the preferences for the users, and timestamps and everything.
Alot of this comes down to the fact that a lot of the companies are American tech companies. And for them, sending through permissions and preferences along with all the user data is just not such a big deal.
But if you have two platforms, and you don’t have an API which shares preferences and permissions, how can you be GDPR compliant? And if you have two platforms, and they’re not properly integrated, how can you be GDPR compliant? And if you’ve got 20, and somebody says, “Please remove my record,” are you going to go into all those 20? Do you have a process to go into the 20 different platforms to delete those users? Because that would be GDPR compliancy.
Having the agility to launch digital subscriptions
Markus Karlsson: One of the key things with transitioning, it doesn’t all have to happen at the same time. So it can happen when the team is comfortable, and when the stars align. So the subscriptions, which happened during the pandemic, that was just a decision to go ahead with it.
Steve Hinds: It was a difficult time to launch it. And especially in the travel industry, which was one that was quite – and still is really – under the cosh with with the travel restrictions and spending caps and whatnot. But we went ahead and did it at that time, and I’m glad we did it.
[Without a unified technology platform] we would have been looking at a massive outlay of investment, and at that point in the pandemic, there was no way that was going to happen. But [the tools] were all there for us. Effectively we’re already paying for it. That’s the same with a lot of the modules, we might as well use them.
If all of the different parts are working together and speaking to each other, it’s not even worth thinking about, you might as well set it up and deliver some some great insights to your team. It makes the whole setup a lot more powerful.
The environmental benefits of consolidating systems
Markus Karlsson: So one of the things that is a personal issue for me, which is that if an organisation is using 50 different platforms, what is the energy footprint of using 50 different platforms that could be done by one platform? What’s the energy cost of storing 50 different customer records, across 50 different platforms?
Loading up a page on a mobile phone, when it’s coming from 20 different plugins or 30 different plugins, takes a huge amount of processing power. Instead of loading up one font, you’re downloading 20 fonts, instead of sending through one CSS to run the page, you’ve got 20, 30 different bits of CSS going for each one of the elements that you’re doing, instead of capturing the interaction once because you know that that person’s hit the page, you’ve got 20 different platforms trying to capture that somebody hit that page. What is the environmental footprint of using 40 or 50 platforms to deliver for your organisations? It’s vast!
When somebody’s got 30 plugins on their page, we need to think, “Okay, what is the environmental footprint to make that work?! So that I think definitely should be part of any conversations along this.
The time-consuming part of consolidation
Steve Hinds: The decision to actually transfer from one to another was a much longer process. A lot of umming and ahhing and “Well, this is going to be difficult, isn’t it?” But when you actually get down to it, the transfer was pretty straightforward. Probably a matter of weeks. It depends on the size of the team, because in my case, it was all me doing it, I was just trying to do fit it in between my other tasks.
By far, the much easier process was the consolidation part. The decision making and the change of workplace, workflows, culture, those are those are much harder things to affect.
This Conversations episode is sponsored by Affino. Founded 2009, Affino is the leading Unified Business Platform for media, publishing, events, membership and professional services organisations. The Affino SaaS Platform provides a complete solution for engaging with and monetising audiences. It combines full-range Audience CRM with Sales and Marketing Automation, Ecommerce, Subscriptions and Memberships, Messaging, CMS, Events, Ad Serving, and Recruitment. Affino streamlines organisations for more efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and productivity, as well as delivering numerous new and unique revenue stream capabilities. The fully GDPR-compliant system is built on the principles of Actionable Intelligence – prompting and triggering intuitive rapid responses based on fully accurate and comprehensive first-hand real-time data.