The pressure of personalisation vs privacy

By Covatic

Broadcasters and media organisations are embroiled in a battle to win the attention of audiences. New digital brands and fresh media faces have taken a large chunk out of the viewing population; for example, YouTube boasts more than 1 billion users every month. This has left traditional content providers struggling to keep eyeballs fixed on their offering. It’s no surprise that driven by a need to stimulate advertising revenue, media companies have turned to content personalisation to reclaim viewers’ loyalty. 

However, for media providers to give audiences a personal experience they must gather vast amounts of personal and private customer data. This has seen them enter a very different battleground; balancing personalisation against the need to deliver rigorous data security or face the risk of a data breach and, worse, the ensuing wrath of their customers. 

What’s more, companies are facing increased complexity thanks to the EU General Data Protection Regulation (EU GDPR) coming into play on 25th May this year. The regulation places significant emphasis on the right of citizens to protect their privacy and retract companies’ access to their personal information. Failure to comply with the EU GDPR comes with hefty fines of 5% of annual turnover or €20 million, whichever is higher – indicating just how critical it is for companies to put the privacy of citizens as the number one business priority. 

Consumer habits have changed

Examining the way in which audiences consume content, it is clear that media providers and broadcasters are facing a challenge; more people than ever before are using their mobile devices to access everything from TV programmes and movies, to news stories and radio segments. However, these audience members are not completely abandoning the traditional viewing habits of desktop computers or televisions. In fact, multichannel is by far the preferred way for viewers to consume content. This means that broadcasters and media providers are having to contend with a viewing landscape that is fragmented and fluctuating depending on a range of variables; for example, the time of day, location or context that a person is viewing content. 

Consumers’ preferences for how they engage with content have shifted, largely thanks to companies like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. These brands have made on-demand viewing a way of life for many people. A study conducted by Google saw the tech giant predict that by 2025, 50 per cent of consumers under the age of 32 would no longer subscribe to a pay TV provider. What’s more, a 2016 study by Nielsen showed that, regardless of age, more people were spending over 100 hours each month watching either live, personally pre-recorded or delayed programming. As new content experiences erode the status quo of broadcasters’ and media organisations’ business models, the need to employ bigger and better ways to engage audiences has become a strategic priority. 

Personalising to pull audiences

Providing a more personalised viewing experience has been widely recognised as the key to attracting audiences and bolstering the commercial value of content. Even the BBC has publicly stated the need to deliver a unique viewing experience to each individual, in a digital age where connecting with audiences is more challenging than ever. 

Yet we must ask the question; what does this mean for consumers? In an ideal world, it means giving consumers the content they want, before they even know they want it; and in the format they prefer, at the most convenient time of day. While on-demand content is growing at an enormous rate, most content providers have a long way to go before this is the norm. 

At present, personalisation has seen big brands using consumers’ personal data to inform a range of content experiences, from recommending television shows based on past viewing activity or tracking news consumption to push relevant news alerts via mobile apps and desktop browsers. Personalised marketing strategies such as these require a vast amount of data, in order to ensure precision around content recommendations.  

Luckily for broadcasters and media organisations, consumers have indicated their willingnessto provide certain information to companies if it allows for a more personalised experience with a brand, and a more accurate delivery of products or services. However, this comes into conflict with the fact that brands will also face a harsh backlash from consumers should this personal information fall into the hands of hackers or cyber-criminals. A study by Gemalto found that a massive 70 per cent of consumers said that they would cease buying from an organisation that had experienced a data breach. 

Butting heads with privacy & data protection

It may be tempting for companies to justify collecting, storing and analysing vast amounts of consumer data, all in the name of creating more personal content experience. However, this can make it all too easy to neglect the arduous and time-intensive task of putting measures in place to protect this data. 

It’s crucial for broadcasting and media brands to question the ways in which they are introducing new processes and procedures around the collection and storage of consumers’ personally identifiable information. For example, to curate a personal experience for a viewer, does a media company really need to access an overabundance of sensitive information about this person; from their name and address, to date of birth and email address? Or can this information simply be analysed and used to inform personalisation algorithms, all while never leaving the viewer’s device? 

Making privacy by design a core tenet of any business process that involves the private details of audiences will mean that broadcasters and media companies can ensure they are handling data responsibility and not exposing viewers to unnecessary risk. Privacy by design will also go a long way towards mitigating the complexity that will be introduced by the EU GDPR.

Coming to a compromise is not good enough

Clearly, in a world filled with choice, and content that is accessible at any time of the day or night, consumers want more from the traditional media experience. Broadcasters and content providers are finding themselves at a crossroads between perfecting their content personalisation strategy and ensuring their data privacy processes and technology are up to scratch. Any media company that puts one above the other will either find themselves facing plummeting audience figures or a business-damaging data disaster. 

Privacy Personalisation GDPR