Bonnier Publications: Democratizing data to succeed in an ever-changing media environment

About Bonnier Publications

Bonnier Publications is a Copenhagen-based media company that focuses on special interest media primarily for the Nordic market. It has won a loyal following with some of the region's most famous brands and is part of Swedish media group Bonnier Holdings.

Industries: Media & Entertainment
Location: Denmark

About IIH Nordic

IIH Nordic is an award-winning Danish data strategy agency that has helped hundreds of firms fulfill their digital potential.

Bonnier Publications boosted subscription sales, inspired employees, and launched its multi-format business model with a customer prediction model on BigQuery in six months.

Google Cloud results

  • Deploys BigQuery to produce a 360-degree view of each customer
  • Doubles checkout conversion with data overhaul completed in just six months
  • Maintains new subscription rate while reducing banners by 90%
  • Motivates employees and attracts tech talent through data transformation

Ecommerce conversions up 18% + 50,000 new subscribers

Generations of readers have pursued their passions in Bonnier Publications' special interest magazines, from Illustreret Videnskab for science buffs to Bo Bedre about interior design. The Danish media firm's brands are among the best known in the Nordics, and Bonnier has built up a loyal readership since its founding in 1959. Yet in a global magazine industry that is shrinking every year, the Copenhagen-based company with 450 employees knew that moving from a print to a digital multi-format business model was critical to survival and growth.

In an environment where disruption is the norm, Bonnier felt it couldn't afford to take its time reinventing itself for the digital age. So the company set a six-month deadline to achieve this goal, turning to Google Cloud Platform (GCP) to power the transformation. The challenge was a complete overhaul of Bonnier's customer data and of the way Bonnier engaged with customers online to maximize ecommerce conversion rates, setting an initial target of 25,000 new subscriptions.

"We're actually using Google Cloud Platform and our new data setup to run our business and make sure we're accelerating this transfer from print to multi-format, taking a 360-degree view on our customers. We're not just using Google Cloud Platform, we're running our business based on it."

Lars Gudbrandsson, EVP Market & CMO, Bonnier Publications

Bonnier worked with partner IIH Nordic to build a machine learning algorithm on GCP that would leverage the power of BigQuery to model consumer behaviour in a granular way. The algorithm was developed using GCP solutions such as Cloud Functions, Google Kubernetes Engine, and TensorFlow. One reason Bonnier chose GCP for the data project was their existing familiarity with platforms such as Google Analytics 360 and Google Ad Manager. The key factor was BigQuery's massive processing power, which allowed aggregation, through a single API, of all historic and real-time data from 15 million consumers in one location.

GCP BigQuery workflow diagram

"We're actually using Google Cloud Platform and our new data setup to run our business and make sure we're accelerating this transfer from print to multi-format, taking a 360-degree view on our customers," says Lars Gudbrandsson, EVP Market and CMO at Bonnier Publications. "We're not just using Google Cloud Platform, we're running our business on it."

Reaching the readership to drive growth

Unlike many publishing firms which are more dependant on advertising, Bonnier's success depends on its reader base, with B2C business accounting for 75% of revenue. So the urgent task was to discover exactly who these readers are and what makes them tick. Bonnier's ML algorithm was designed to feed customer data into a BigQuery data lake to help the company better understand its customer's journey.

The analytics and data overhaul was launched on all Bonnier's brands in all four Nordic countries, totaling approximately 100 websites. As Science Illustrated is their biggest brand, Bonnier used that to spearhead the power of the new analytics and data setup. This 35-year-old publication, known primarily as a print magazine, was undergoing its own transformation into a fully fledged multi-format platform, offering enriched media content and article archive behind a paywall, audio articles, and a YouTube channel.

The data project began in June 2018 and finished in November, focusing on six commercial use cases deemed key to Bonnier's B2C success. BigQuery shaped the massive dataset into models capable of predicting consumer actions with great precision. Consumers were placed into five segments on a spectrum of conversion likelihood, from high probability visitors who qualified for customer lifetime value treatment to minimal probability consumers matched with content or a third-party advertisement.

"We've gone from somewhere in the middle or in the lower 50% of media companies that are using data to perhaps the top 5%," says Lars. "And on top of that, we did it in just six months."

"With our machine learning algorithm, we can recognize 16.5% as being subscribing customers, in real time. Six months ago, recognition was 0% because we didn't have the aggregated data. With BigQuery, that 16.5% can now get a retention message rather than a purchase message."

Lars Gudbrandsson, EVP Market & CMO, Bonnier Publications

The results have been dramatic. Bonnier more than doubled its targeted 0.5 percentage point conversion rate increase to 1.15 percentage points, yielding an 18% gain in checkout conversion. That translated into 50,000 across all brands, against a 25,000 KPI. Underscoring the shift to a multi-format business model, 55% of new subscribers are now coming from digital channels.

In another key outcome, Bonnier can identify exactly how many of its 11.5 million unique monthly site visitors are paid subscribers, allowing it to craft tailor-made messages: "With our machine learning algorithm, we can recognize 16.5% as being subscribing customers, in real time," says Lars. "Six months ago, recognition was zero because we didn't have the aggregated data. With BigQuery, that 16.5% can now get a retention message rather than a purchase message."

Using BigQuery for CRM analytics has also allowed Bonnier to cut banners and commercial messages on its website by 90% while maintaining the same conversion rate to new subscribers. It gives Bonnier the choice of removing banners for a cleaner site or selling 90% of inventory to advertisers for a new revenue stream.

"If you ask any publisher, one of the biggest problems is the constant internal battle over inventory on its own media," says Lars. "Should this be sold to an advertiser or should we use it to promote our own product? I firmly believe we have answered that question. Now we're using GCP and our machine learning algorithm to have data doing that in real time, and alternating it to optimize how we distribute inventory."

"The 18% increase in conversion has given a positive ROI on the project in just six months," added Lars. "In any industry, that's an incredible return."

"With democratized data, everybody has access so they can make their own decisions. They're super excited to have access to everything, without needing to go ask seven different people. Those from the editorial side, the commercial side, and the development side sit together and build on each other's strengths."

Lars Gudbrandsson, EVP Market & CMO, Bonnier Publications

Data democratized for maximum impact

Alongside commercial results, Bonnier has acquired significant intangible assets through the journey to BigQuery. The project involved all departments at Bonnier, including marketing, editorial, digital, and advertising, which met every week in cross-functional teams. That was made possible by an easy-to-learn GCP Console interface that empowers employees, until then confined to specific data specialities, to bring unique strengths to a transformative collaboration, enhancing motivation and team ethos.

"With democratized data, everybody has access so they can make their own decisions," says Lars. "They're super excited to have access to everything, without needing to go ask seven different people. Those from the editorial side, the commercial side, and the development side sit together and build on each other's strengths."

Meanwhile, adopting BigQuery and the entire GCP suite of machine learning and analytics tools has allowed Bonnier to leapfrog larger publishers in harnessing consumer data to grow in a challenging media environment. That projects an aura of dynamism that enables Bonnier to acquire premium tech talent to take its digital transformation to the next level.

"No matter whether we present it at a conference, in our network, or through our partner, everybody who hears about our case says the same thing: you guys have done what we only talk about," said Lars. "And that's super motivating for our people as well, because now they start saying 'Wow, I'm working for a company that's ahead on data.'"

Unlimited transformation for new business models

With world-class data analytics up and running, the next step for Bonnier is a fully personalized ecommerce shop that offers visitors custom-made interaction depending on their history. The editorial team, meanwhile, is developing strategies for building engagement models, part of the next wave of data use cases that will fuel Bonnier's growth.

Looking further ahead, working with Google allows Bonnier to generate new revenue streams outside its core magazine business. With large data assets, aggregated in BigQuery, Bonnier can begin to offer marketing services to companies seeking to break into the Nordic market, providing insights based on Bonnier's own data journey into what products might perform.

"We can now start to build new business models," says Lars. "So really, we're just getting started."

About Bonnier Publications

Bonnier Publications is a Copenhagen-based media company that focuses on special interest media primarily for the Nordic market. It has won a loyal following with some of the region's most famous brands and is part of Swedish media group Bonnier Holdings.

Industries: Media & Entertainment
Location: Denmark

About IIH Nordic

IIH Nordic is an award-winning Danish data strategy agency that has helped hundreds of firms fulfill their digital potential.

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