With 2020 now behind us, I hope that 2021 brings you and your loved ones better luck and joy.
Last year around this time, I wrote “5 Digital Analytics Trends for Media and Publishers to Watch in 2020,” which (obviously) talked about some trends to watch for in 2020.
In this spirit, I’m back to discuss digital analytics trends in 2021. Admittedly, the trends for 2021 are not going to be all that different than in 2020. With COVID-19, many companies dialed back initiatives, or in some cases, executed big layoffs due to stay afloat. The pandemic touched most industries across the globe, including news, media, and publishing.
But this year I’m hopeful companies will be able to refocus and reprioritize their digital analytics strategy.
I’m going to share three key trends to watch for in 2021: A renewed focus on data strategy, a continued focus on data governance and privacy law compliance, and a new focus on Google Analytics 4.
1. Renewed Focus on Data Strategy
In my article last year, I spoke about a shift in data strategy from leveraging third-party data (where you use other companies’ data) to first-party data (data you own on your customers). I discussed the potential downfall of the data management platforms (DMPs) due to most being overly reliant on third-party cookies to track users across the web.
I do believe DMPs can still be valuable platforms to a news and media organization. They should be used to supplement your first-party data and expand your audience reach.
However, an over-reliance is a cause for concern. At this point, companies should own most of their customer data. If your marketing and advertising are mainly powered by someone else’s data, you are at a disadvantage compared to your competitors. Let that sink in.
What data does your company “own” on your users/customers? Where is that data stored? And is it able to be activated for monetization via other platforms like Google Ad Manager? These are all questions you need to consider if your company is to remain competitive in 2021.
Advertisers are getting more sophisticated and are requiring more targeted audiences. Why should advertisers choose your properties to advertise to over any of the other thousands of high traffic sites and apps? The data you own on your visitors and their behavior can be a differentiator. Is gaining more first-party data on your visitors part of your current strategy? It certainly needs to be.
2. Continued Focus on Data Governance and Privacy Law Compliance
These two topics are interrelated. You can’t follow privacy laws without having a data governance strategy to monitor the data you’re collecting and where it’s going.
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) were at the forefront of privacy laws, but new legislation will continue to appear all over the world. Data privacy and security is only going to become more regulated, so companies will need to put in place strong data governance practices to ensure compliance.
Organizations must have strong data governance practices, or they will potentially be at risk of litigation, fines, and losing consumer trust. I cannot stress this enough. Your organization needs to have strong data governance practices built into your internal platforms and processes.
One quick test you can do right now. Go to your company’s most popular website and use a tool like Tag Explorer—an extension built by Tag Inspector and powered by InfoTrust—to see how many tags are on the site. How many did you find? 20? 50? 100 or more?
As a quick exercise, describe the purpose of each tag you found, who inside your organization owns each tag, what data is collected by each tag, where that data goes (what platforms), and what those platforms do with your visitors’ data.
If you (or someone else in your organization) cannot answer this for every single tag on your website (and apps, as well), then your organization is in serious need of data governance.
3. A New Focus on Google Analytics 4
Last but not least is Google Analytics 4—often called GA4—which Google announced in October 2020 as officially graduating from the beta stage. It was previously called “App + Web,” and GA4 is the next generation of Google Analytics.
This is an exciting and welcome announcement for anyone looking to better aggregate web and app data, while also taking advantage of Google’s machine-learning wits that are being built into the platform.
For many organizations leveraging Google Analytics, GA4 will be a bit of a mindset shift as the data model is different from Universal Analytics, its predecessor. Also, there are now data “streams” that are connected to properties for different versions of the site and apps.
For instance, the New York Times would have one GA4 property for the main NYTimes.com site and app. Within this property there would be separate data streams for the website, the iOS app, the Android app, and so on.
GA4 has also been built from the ground up with both data governance and compliance in mind, along with Google’s vast machine-learning abilities, to surface alerts and insights quicker than ever.
During our News & Media Breakfast event in late 2020, I presented on GA4 to discuss why it’s perfect for news and media organizations. (If you weren’t able to attend, you can check it out here.)
We’re looking forward to migrating all of our news and media clients onto GA4 to take advantage of the latest features and functionality.
We talked about the three key digital analytics trends to watch for in 2021:
- A renewed focus on data strategy;
- A continued focus on data governance and privacy law compliance, and;
- A new focus on Google Analytics 4.
Now is the time to ensure your data strategy is focused on first-party data, and your organization has a data governance strategy to manage both first-party and third-party data collected on your platforms. Finally, if you use Google Analytics, it’s time to check out what GA4 has to offer.
With these strategies, we can leave 2020 in the past and enjoy a successful 2021! Stay safe, my friends.