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How data should work: a CNN perspective

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The value of an audience is diminished if a company doesn’t understand it. It’s for this reason that real-time data insights play an important role in every part of a media company’s business, writes ROB BRADELY at CNN.

When did data become the zeitgeist of modern media? It’s hard to put your finger on any exact moment, but what’s beyond doubt is that the influence of data is here to stay and will only grow. To understand an audience, feed an algorithm or inform real-time bidding – data and insight have roles to play in every part of a media company’s business.

No more so than at a company like CNN. We’ve built up a huge digital audience at scale over the years, but the value of that audience is diminished if we can’t understand it, respond to our users’ behaviour and harness the insight for our advertisers. Sounds a mighty task, right? Well, it would be downright impossible if we didn’t have data insight.

Take, for instance, how data works in understanding and targeting an audience. Is it better to start with a large audience dataset then narrow in and optimise targeting or better to start with a tight dataset and broaden if delivery is hard or it’s underperforming?

Having worked with publisher data using several data management platforms for four years now, I’ve come to understand that this balance is vital to the success of a data-targeted campaign. Utilising the platform to create both broad and tight datasets to optimise dynamically against is key. Specific segments should be fluid because one set audience won’t always behave the same for every campaign. By using the real-time data insight and reporting back to the client, the marketing message can be tailored for best success during the campaign or the next.

The bad news for smaller publishers is that only large scale allows you to start big and tighten in segments to meet performance goals. Without the scale in the first place, where do you go to optimise? Some Western European and US media owners can utilise third party data, but other regions will struggle to find meaningful volume of accurate data, or indeed, any data at all.

Scale can be bought in other ways, of course – huge audiences are available to any advertiser happy to be cast adrift in an ocean of inventory. Even I can put money into Facebook to boost a post on a hobby page if I wanted to target a group of users by demographic or interest anywhere in the world. However, what about context, environment and a site’s natural audience harnessed over years of providing quality content? This means something before data even enters the room.

Programmatic trading struggled for credibility in its formative years, but as premium publishers entered the arena programmatic became a means to reach upscale audiences. With premium publishers also comes reassurance around ad fraud – we like humans seeing our ads not bots – and marketers could take heart that even without the data to back up the results, they broadly knew what type of upmarket users their message would be reaching.

We need to be wary of an over-reliance on data because a great creative solution in a relevant environment can succeed on its own, and we don’t want to risk creeping out a user by over-targeting them; but, overall, the positives far outweigh the negatives as long as we’re sensible. In fact, data-informed decisions about capping frequency of ads and re-targeting can enhance the user experience and make our audience less likely to want to install that pesky ad-blocker.

However, for me, the biggest opportunity for using data to its full potential is in the area of reporting. Not so long ago a tedious chore delegated to the most junior member of staff, data-rich reporting is enabling publishers to deliver true audience insight to clients. At a time when there’s so much competition for ad dollars, the onus is on the publisher to go beyond the click through rate.

There’s a whole range of complex metrics – viewability, engagement, dwell-time and audience behaviour before, during and after they visit our site – that we can use to tell an important story: what type of audience saw your ad, how did they react to it, what was their next step, and how we can better serve them in the future. Only then, can we as an industry truly say that we’re not just relying on scale, and that we really understand the opportunity of the data revolution.

* Rob Bradley is director of digital advertising revenue and data at CNN International

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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