How the Guardian made data transparency part of its brand promise

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Julia Porter, Guardian Media Group, discusses the paper’s approach to identity data transparency. As Director of Consumer Revenues at Guardian News and Media (GNM), Julia Porter drives the newspaper’s digital marketing strategy. She has increased GNM’s subscriptions activity by 20% in just two years, and created a single customer view that is used to drive an improved reader experience. We asked her about the Guardian approach to data transparency and identity management.

Who has responsibility for identity data – the person sharing it or the organisation using it?

Julia Porter: Both. The person sharing will want to know the value exchange: ‘What’s in it for me?’ If people use a free service they should be evaluating what they get for free in return for sharing their data. From the organisation’s point of view, they need to be as open and transparent as possible with what they are planning to do with the data. The new GDPR will mean that organisations will have to focus on this more and more.

What is behind the rise of the data strategist in organisations?

JP: Organisations are awash with data. Operational data, customer data, clickstream data etc. For many organisations, how data is used will become a major source of competitive advantage. Insurance companies will use a lot of data to help refine the risk of individual customers by tracking their activity. Telecoms companies will decide where to place the next mast based on patterns of usage. Even our government departments will use data to improve the way they deliver services to us. However, they all need to deploy some strategic thinking as to how that data can really be used to save costs, drive higher levels of engagement or increase profits – without losing sight of the core value exchange the sharing party will expect.

How can the commercial and data teams work most effectively together?

JP: First and foremost, they need to learn each other’s language. It’s a bit like putting a Japanese person and a British person in the same room without a translator. There will be many misunderstandings and misconceptions.

Second, ensure that you create one version of the truth. Define metrics that are well understood by everyone. Make sure you apply a high level of rigour and ensure that these metrics are well communicated to all teams.

Third, make them share their KPIs. If everyone is aiming for the same goal there is a much higher chance of success.

Tell us about the Guardian’s ‘Why Your Data Matters’ campaign. What challenges did you face in adopting it?

JP: We realised that learning how to monetise our audience data would be central to our future commercial strategy. We also knew that our journalists were sensitive about the use of data, having published extensively on the Edward Snowdon leaks. We had to explain to our colleagues that we wanted to use customer data to help personalise and target our offers but we’d only be able to do that if we explained that in as open and transparent way as possible. We also realised that we needed to explain the ‘why’ as well as the ‘what’.

Finally, we wanted to create something over and above the content we provide in our (very comprehensive) privacy centre to give readers an overview of what we do with audience data and why.

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