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The Multi-Billion Dollar Industry That Makes Its Living From Your Data

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The Multi-Billion Dollar Personal Data Ecosystem

The Multi-Billion Dollar Industry That Makes Its Living From Your Data

In the ocean ecosystem, plankton is the raw material that fuels an entire food chain. These tiny organisms on their own aren’t that remarkable, but en masse, they have a huge impact on the world.

Here on dry land, the massive volume of content and meta data we produce fuels a marketing research industry that is worth nearly $50 billion. Every instant message, page click, and step you take now produces a data point that can be used to build a detailed profile of who you are.

Every breath you take, Every move you make

The coarse-grained demographics and contact information of yesteryear seems quaint compared to today’s sophisticated data collection battleground. In the past, marketers would make judgement calls on your likely income and family structure based on where you lived, and you’d receive “targeted” mail and calls from telemarketers. Loyalty programs and the emergence of web analytics pushed things a little further.

Today, the steady march of technological advancement has created a vast data collection empire that measures every aspect of your digital life and, increasingly, your offline life as well. Facebook alone uses nearly one hundred data points to target ads to you – everything from your marital status to whether you’ve been on vacation lately or not. Telecoms have access to extremely detailed information on your location. Apple has biometric data.

Also watching your every move are web trackers. “Cookie-syncing” is one of the sneaky ways advertisers can follow you around the internet. Basically, cookie-syncing allows third parties to share browsing information at such a large scale that even the NSA “piggybacks” off them for surveillance purposes.

The recent sales growth of smart speakers will only increase the breadth of data companies collect and analyze. Amazon and Google have both filed patents for technology that would essentially allow them to mine audio recordings for keywords. Advertisers could potentially target you with diapers before your family and friends even know you’re expecting a baby.

Following the ones and zeros

While web trackers and companies like Apple and Google are collecting a lot of personal and behavioral data, it’s the whales of the data ecosystem – data brokers – who are creating increasingly detailed profiles on almost everyone.

Data brokers trade on the privacy of consumers and operate in the shadows.

– Senator Al Franken (D-Minn)

The goal of data brokers, such as Experian or Acxiom, is to siphon up as much personal data as possible and apply it to profiles. This data comes from a wide variety of sources. Your purchases, financial history, internet activity, and even psychographic attributes are mixed with information from public records to create a robust dossier. Digital profiles are then sorted into one of thousands of categories to help optimize advertising efforts.

Fear the shadow profile?

According to Pew Research, 91% of Americans “agree” or “strongly agree” that people have lost control over how personal information is collected and used.

Though optimizing clickthroughs is a big business, companies are increasingly moving beyond advertising to extract value from their growing data pipeline. Amalgamated data is increasingly being viewed as a clever way to assess risk in the decision-making process (e.g. hiring, insurance, loan or housing applications), and the stakes for consumers are going up in the process.

For example, a man may feel comfortable sharing their HIV status on Grindr (for practical reasons), but may not want that information going to a third party. (Unfortunately, that really happened.)

In 2015, Facebook filed a patent for a service that would help insurance companies vet people based on the credit ratings of their social network.

The More You Know

Below the surface of our screens, our digital profiles continue to take shape.

Measures like adjusting website privacy controls and clearing cookies are a good start, but that’s only a fraction of the data companies are collecting. Not only do data brokers make it hard to officially opt out, their partnerships with corporations and advanced data collection methods cast such a wide net, that it’s almost impossible to exclude individual people.

Data brokers have operated with very little scrutiny or oversight, but that may be changing. Under intense public and governmental pressure, Facebook recently cut ties with data brokers. For a company that has bullishly pursued monetization of user data at every turn, the move is a sign that the public sentiment is changing.

The more information on the personal data industry, visit Cracked Labs’ report on the issue.

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Animation: How Tech is Eating the Brand World

Changing consumer expectations have created a harsh environment for traditional brands to operate in—will tech companies make them obsolete?

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How Technology is Eating the Brand World

Building a brand with an imperishable competitive edge can be difficult.

Technology companies however, are redefining what that edge means. By hastily responding to emerging consumer needs and leveraging the power of brand, these companies can continuously create meaningful solutions for real problems with scale.

Today’s animated chart highlights the most valuable brands in 2019 versus 2001, according to the annual “Best Global Brands” ranking by Interbrand. It illustrates the degree to which technology companies have been able to scale into massive brands over a short time frame, supplanting some of the best known companies in the world.

What is Brand Value, and How is it Measured?

Interbrand has created and consistently used a robust formula to measure brand value. Brand value is the Net Present Value (NPV) or the present value of the earnings that a brand is forecasted to generate in the future.

The formula evaluates brands based on their financial forecast, brand role, and brand strength. The full methodology can be found here.

Tech Reigns Supreme

In 2001, the cumulative brand value was $988 billion. Today, that value stands at $2.1 trillion and represents an average CAGR of 4.4%. Over the years, global tech giants have swiftly climbed the ranks, and now represent a significant amount of the total brand value.

In fact, with a combined brand value of almost $700 billion, tech companies account for half of the top 10 most valuable brands in the world. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Apple holds the title for the world’s most valuable brand in 2019—for the seventh year running.

Only 31 brands from the 2001 ranking remain on the Best Global Brands list today, including Disney, Nike, and Gucci. Coca-Cola and Microsoft are the few who have remained in the top 10.

Below is the full list of the world’s most valuable brands:

RankBrandBrand Value ($B)1-Yr Value ChangeIndustry
#1Apple$234B9%Technology
#2Google$168B8%Technology
#3Amazon$125B24%Technology
#4Microsoft$108B17%Technology
#5Coca-Cola$63B-4%Beverages
#6Samsung$61B2%Technology
#7Toyota$56B5%Automotive
#8Mercedes Benz$51B4%Automotive
#9McDonald’s$45B4%Restaurants
#10Disney$44B11%Entertainment
#11BMW$41B1%Automotive
#12IBM$40B-6%Business Services
#13Intel40B-7%Technology
#14Facebook$40B-12%Technology
#15Cisco$35B3%Business Services
#16Nike$32B7%Retail
#17Louis Vuitton$32B14%Retail
#18Oracle$26B1%Business Services
#19General Electric$25B22%Diversified
#20SAP$25B10%Business Services
#21Honda$24B3%Automotive
#22Chanel$22B11%Retail
#23American Express$22B13%Technology
#24Pepsi$20B-1%Beverages
#25J.P Morgan$19B8%Finance
#26Ikea$18B5%Retail
#27UPS$18B7%Logistics
#28Hermes$18B9%Retail
#29Zara$17B-3%Retail
#30H&M$16B-3%Retail
#31Accenture$16B14%Business Services
#32Budweiser$16B3%Alcohol
#33Gucci$16B23%Retail
#34Pampers$16B-5%FMCG
#35Ford$14B2%Automotive
#36Hyundai$14B5%Automotive
#37Gillette$14B-18%FMCG
#38Nescafe$14B4%Beverages
#39Adobe$13B20%Technology
#40Volkswagen$13B6%Automotive
#41Citi$13B10%Financial Services
#42Audi$13B4%Automotive
#43Allianz$12B12%Insurance
#44ebay$12B-8%
#45Adidas$12B11%Fashion
#46Axa$12B6%Insurance
#47HSBC$12B5%Finance
#48Starbucks$12B23%Restaurants
#49Philips$12B-4%Electronics
#50Porsche$12B9%Automotive
#51L’oreal$11B4%FMCG
#52Nissan$11B-6%Automotive
#53Goldman Sachs$11B-4%Finance
#54Hewlett Packard$11B4%Technology
#55Visa$11B19%Technology
#56Sony$10B13%Technology
#57Kelloggs$10B-2%FMCG
#58Siemens$10B1%Technology
#59Danone$10B4%FMCG
#60Nestle$9B7%Beverages
#61Canon$9B-9%Technology
#62Mastercard$9B25%Technology
#63Dell Technologies$9BNewTechnology
#643M$9B-1%Technology
#65Netflix$9B10%Entertainment
#66Colgate$9B2%FMCG
#67Santander$8B13%Finance
#68Cartier$8B7%Luxury
#69Morgan Stanley$8B-7%Finance
#70Salesforce$8B24%Technology
#71Hewlett Packard Enterprise$8B-3%Technology
#72PayPal$8B15%Technology
#73FedEx$7B2%Logistics
#74Huawei$7B-9%Technology
#75Lego$7B5%FMCG
#76Caterpillar$7B19%Diversified
#77Ferrari$6B12%Automotive
#78Kia$6B-7%Automotive
#79Corona$6B15%Alcohol
#80Jack Daniels$6B13%Alcohol
#81Panasonic$6B-2%Technology
#82Dior$6B16%Fashion
#83DHL$6B2%Logistics
#84John Deere$6B9%Diversified
#85Land Rover$6B-6%Automotive
#86Johnson & Johnson$6B-8%Retail
#87Uber$6BNewTechnology
#88Heineken$5,6264%Alcohol
#89Nintendo$6B18%Entertainment
#90MINI$5B5%Automotive
#91Discovery$5B-4%Entertainment
#92Spotify$5B7%Technology
#93KFC$5B1%Restaurants
#94Tiffany & Co$5B-5%Fashion
#95Hennessy$5B12%Alcohol
#96Burberry$5B4%Fashion
#97Shell$5B-3%Energy
#98LinkedIn$5BNewTechnology
#99Harley Davidson$5B-7%Automotive
#100Prada$5B-1%Fashion

Since 2001—the first year the report featured 100 brands—several tech companies have joined and climbed their way to the top of the list, while 137 notable brands dropped off entirely, including Nokia and MTV.

In an interesting turn of events, Facebook dropped out of the top 10, and into 14th place after a volatile year. The move however, is not surprising. The tech giant has been mired in controversies, ranging from data privacy issues to prioritizing political influence.

Which Brands Are Growing the Fastest?

2019’s fastest growing brands also signals tech domination, with Mastercard, Salesforce and Amazon leading the charge.

The companies in this ranking experienced a significant increase in their brand value year-over-year (YoY).

RankBrandBrand Value ($B)YoY Growth
#1Mastercard$9B25%
#2Salesforce$8B24%
#3Amazon$125B24%
#4Gucci$16B23%
#5Starbucks$12B23%
#6Adobe$13B20%
#7Visa$11B19%
#8Caterpillar$7B19%
#9Nintendo$5B18%
#10Microsoft$109B17%

According to Interbrand, the success of these brands may be attributed to their ability to anticipate rapidly changing customer expectations.

While the relationship between business performance and brand equity has been a widely debated topic for decades, it is clear that customer satisfaction bolsters brand equity, and encourages impressive financial results.

Disrupt, or Be Disrupted

Beyond anticipating changing needs, some of the most successful brands also cater to a younger customer base. This is the most evident in luxury and retail—the two fastest growing sectors for the second consecutive year.

This audience is tech-first in their buying habits and increasingly demand more elevated and shareable experiences. As a result, traditional brands across all sectors are innovating to keep up with this audience, and some are essentially becoming tech companies in the process.

For example, Gucci attributes their success to finding the perfect blend between creativity and technology. The company that once relied on its heritage, now focuses heavily on ecommerce and social media to engage with their Gen Z customers.

Similarly, Walmart recently announced that they are employing virtual reality headsets and machine-learning-powered robots in an attempt to compete with Amazon.

Will traditional companies ultimately become tech companies, or simply get eaten alive?

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Who Owns Your Favorite News Media Outlet?

A revealing look at consolidation and ownership of news media outlets in the United States. See who owns news media, and where ‘news deserts’ exist.

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who owns U.S. news media outlets

Who Owns Your Favorite News Media Outlet?

It’s no secret that news media is a tough industry.

For various reasons — from tech disruption to changing media consumption habits — the U.S. has seen a net loss of 1,800 local newspapers over the past 15 years. As regional newspapers are bundled together, and venture-backed digital media brands expand their portfolios, the end result is a trend towards increased consolidation.

Today’s graphic, created by TitleMax, is a broad look at who owns U.S. news media outlets.

Escaping the News Desert

As outlets battle the duopoly of Google and Facebook for advertising revenue, the local news game has become increasingly difficult.

As a result, news deserts have been springing up all over America:

What happens when times get tough?

One option is to simply go out of business, while another traditional solution is to combine forces through consolidation. While not ideal, the latter option at least provides a potential route to revenue and cost synergies that make it easier to compete in a challenging environment.

Nation of Consolidation

Though the numbers have decreased in recent years, regional news media still reaches millions of people each day.

Below is a look at the top 20 owners of America’s newspapers:

Parent CompaniesTotal PapersExample brands
New Media Investment Group451Patriot Ledger, The Columbus Dispatch, The Providence Journal
Gannett216USA Today, Detroit Free Press, Arizona Republic
Digital First Media158Oakland Tribune, San Jose Mercury News, Denver Post
Adams Publishing Group144The Charlotte Sun, Wyoming Tribune-Eagle
CNHI114Niagara Gazette, The Huntsville Item, The Lebanon Reporter
Lee Enterprises100Arizona Daily Sun, St. Louis Post Dispatch
Ogden Newspapers81The Maui News, The Toledo Chronicle, Salem News
Tribune Publishing77Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, The Baltimore Sun
Berkshire Hathaway Media75Buffalo News, Winston-Salem Journal, Omaha World-Herald
Shaw Media71Suburban Life Magazine, Putnam County Record
Boone Newspapers66The Austin Daily Herald, The Charlotte Gazette
Hearst Corp.66San Francisco Chronicle, Seattlepi.com, Houston Chronicle
Paxton Media Group58Daily Corinthian, Connersville News-Examiner
Landmark Media Enterprises55Citrus County Chronicle, The News-Enterprise
Community Media Group51Lafayette Leader, The Wellsboro Gazette
AIM Media50Odessa American, El Nuevo Heraldo
McClatchy49Idaho Statesman, Miami Herald, The Sacramento Bee
Advance Publications46The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Wired, The Oregonian, NJ.com
Rust Communications44Cherokee Chronicle Times, Southeast Missourian
News Media Corp.43Cheyenne Minuteman, Brookings Register, Newport News Times

Source

Turnover in this segment of the market has been brisk. In fact, more than half of existing newspapers have changed ownership in the past 15 years, some multiple times. For example, the LA Times is now in the hands of its third owner since 2000, after being purchased by billionaire biotech investor Patrick Soon-Shiong.

The industry may be facing another dramatic drop off in ownership diversity as the two largest players, New Media Investment Group and Gannett, are on the path to merging. If shareholders give the thumbs-up during the vote this November, Gannett will have amassed the largest online audience of any American news provider.

The Flying Vs: Vox and Vice

It isn’t just regional papers being swept up in the latest round of mergers and acquisitions — new media is getting into the mix as well.

Vox Media recently inked a deal to acquire New York Media, the firm behind New York Magazine, Vulture, and The Cut.

I think you’re going to see that trend [of consolidation] across the industry. I just hope it’s done for the right reasons. You see too many of these things done for financial engineering.

– Jim Bankoff, CEO of Vox Media

Meanwhile, Vice recently acquired Refinery29 for $400 million, giving it access to a new audience skewed towards millennial women. This match-up seems awkward on the surface, but it allows advertisers to reach a broader cross-section of people within each ad ecosystem.

Both companies announced layoffs in the past year, and this restructuring may help both companies win as they consolidate resources.

The Bottom Line

While news media isn’t quite as consolidated as the broader media ecosystem, it’s certainly trending in that direction. Thousands of American communities that had local newspapers in 2004 now have no news coverage at all, while remaining papers are increasingly becoming units within an umbrella company, with no direct stake in community reporting.

That said, until the issue of monetization is definitively sorted out, consolidation may be the only way to keep the presses from stopping.


About the Graphic

This list of top 100 news sites was compiled using the following criteria:

– The top “digital-native” news outlets by monthly unique visitors (Pew Research and ComScore, excluding sports)
– The top newspapers by average Sunday circulation (Pew Research and Alliance for Audited Media)
– Alexa’s top sites under the category of news (U.S. only, excluding user-generated)

Note: The graphic has been updated to reflect changes in ownership for Refinery29, Gizmodo, and Jezebel.

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