How Mi9 balances real-time data analytics with creativity

Mi9 data and analytics chief Richard McLaren outlines how the digital media company is balancing data-driven customer insight with content creativity

With more than 14.5 million active users spread across 80 different sites, Mi9 has a lot of data to work with. But even in this data-rich environment, the human touch still applies.

Maybe that’s because Mi9’s managing director of Data and Services, Richard McLaren, happens to also hold three degrees in philosophy (including a Masters in Philosophy from Cambridge University) along with his extensive digital media experience.

Hence he is as much at home talking about different models for the evolution of science and abstract systems as he is about real-time data analytics. Ultimately, says McLaren, getting things right for a company like Mi9 requires the ability to hypothesise and think outside the system to come up with brilliant ideas.

“You need the machine to prove you are right, but the balance is that we want people to have original ideas and be able to spend more of their time thinking of crazy stuff that we can then test,” McLaren says. “The beautiful thing with us on the home page is that we get so much traffic that the signal is really strong, really quickly.”

Mi9 boasts an impressive range of digital assets, from the news and entertainment site, ninemsn, backed by its content partners Nine Network and Bauer Media, through to Microsoft-powered services such as Outlook.com, SkyDrive, Xbox Live and its more recent acquisition, Skype. Combined with a user panel based around Microsoft’s Bing search engine toolbar, Mi9 boasts user coverage in Australia that it claims exceeds Facebook.

Those users generate a lot of data, and McLaren and his team have been able to use that data to test some of their more left-field ideas, including major site changes on ninemsn such as pulling out the Editor’s Pick box.

“What we determined was that by taking that out we increased clicks below that line by 16 per cent,” McLaren says. “That was a surprising outcome. You’ll actually see more experimentation now on the home page using data than there’s ever been.”

Just over six months ago, McLaren brought all product development at Mi9 into its data organisation, encompassing all consumer products, ad products and creative services. This, combined with the fact that its reach extends across multiple platforms, also gives Mi9 the ability to understand consumption patterns more effectively, and to design sites and applications that specifically reflect recorded user behaviour.

“So what does the data tell us about the data in which content is being consumed, and how do we frame products from a digital perspective that exactly meet those needs, such as whether they are on a bus travelling or in their lounge room,” McLaren says.

“Everything we do is driven at a feature level entirely by what the data is telling us.”

Big data analytics: The new black magic of marketing?
How to navigate the data analytics path
eBay employs big data platforms to drive competitive edge

One outcome of that is ninemsn Now, a mobile oriented service that delivers 15 to 20 top stories for rapid consumption, is regularly updated throughout the day. That service is now being extended to tablet devices.

Data also means Mi9 can make smarter choices about what consumers actually see. McLaren says that may lead to variations between user experiences of between 5 to 15 per cent as they receive content more relevant and tailored to their experience.

“It may be that you see things in a different order, or the stack of stories you see is different, but I don’t think we’ll ever get to a point where we have a distinctly different experience of ninemsn or of any one of our networks products based on who you are,” McLaren says.

“But you might see products that are more tailored to different people.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO Australia conversation on LinkedIn: CMO Australia, or join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia

Signup to CMO’s new email newsletter to receive your weekly dose of targeted content for the modern marketing chief.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Blog Posts

Innovations in retail will bring creative and technology closer than ever

While approaching a customer in a shop and asking what you can help them with is Retail 101, how many of us actually enjoy being approached? Generally, you have to give the forced, fake smile and say, “Just browsing, thanks,” while screaming on the inside, “just leave me alone!” Maybe it’s just me?

Jason Dooris

CEO and founder, Atomic 212

There’s a brand in my digital soup

Not a day passes by in the life of business executives where digital innovation or the prospect of disruption is not front of mind. This in turn, drives an unrelenting flow of questioning, discussion and strategy papers.

Jean-Luc Ambrosi

Author, marketer

Can marketers trust agencies again?

Unless you’ve been marketing under a rock, you’ll probably have questioned whether your media agencies are offering you transparency.

Nic Halley

Founder and managing director, Mindbox

Nice post Brad! very useful information. The retail stores are really mean for every brand I am agree with you. Now Online Service Market...

Srialto

The rise of online retail marketplaces and what they mean for brands

Read more

Minor correct Nadia, just wanted to clarify that the "Marketo consultants" that did this work, were actually Hoosh consultants

Fab Capodicasa

What it's taking for Edible Blooms to grow a stronger personalisation strategy

Read more

Im not surprise though, been in the industry for couple of years and I feel and see it with my tow eyes how eCommerce platforms innovated...

Jason Smith

Australia Post earmarks $20m for Australian ecommerce innovation investment

Read more

For marketers that are "going Agile" I recommend using Ravetree. It's a really powerful suite of tools for Agile project management, reso...

Janice Morgan

7 ways to run your marketing department like a software startup

Read more

Over the years very part of our lives has become technological. That’s why I am not surprised to see that Australian home loans are going...

GreatDayTo

Why Aussie Home Loans is embracing digital transformation

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in