How leading insight teams combine research and data analytics – part 3: Mail Metro Media

Insight is changing fast. 

Understanding users and consumers now involves a crowd of related teams, skillsets and methods: research, data science, UX feedback, customer experience, digital marketing, e-commerce, business intelligence …

Insight leaders are juggling all this complexity as they transform their teams. They are contending with new data sources, software tools, team members, reporting lines and stakeholder expectations.

So how are they doing it?

That question was the inspiration for a panel discussion at the 2019 IIEX Europe Conference. Four insight leaders from Nestlé, Turner, Just Eat and Mail Metro Media shared their experiences as they navigate this fluid environment and build combined research and data analytics teams.

In this series of short interviews with these leaders, we touch on 4 key aspects of each brand’s insight transformation.

In this article, Becky Hillcoat – Senior Strategic Research Manager with Mail Metro Media.

Mail Metro Media is the commercial arm of the publishers of newsbrands such as Daily Mail, MailOnline and Metro, and is the UK’s number one news brand reaching 1 in 5 UK adults every day.

MS: How does research and data analytics come together in your business?


Our insight team are experts in both research and analytics.

We have different specialisms within the team, but encourage everyone to use data from all the different first and third third party sources we have available. Even if team members are not working with certain tools on a day to day basis, we encourage them to understand where the data comes from, and its potential business applications.

The commercial insight team is not the only place in the business that handles analytics. Several other teams have analysts for their own bespoke needs.

To bridge the gap and make sure we’re all joined up, we have a ‘data working group’ that meets weekly. Data leaders from across the business meet to discuss what each team is doing, share learnings, discuss any new technology platforms or methods, and ask for help from the relevant teams to build data-driven stories.

MS: What different skills and roles do you need for this new world? Do you hire them or train them?


We need a real mix of skills. The more senior people in the team tend to specialise in an area – core research, for example, or digital analytics; but we always encourage our team to tell joined-up stories using all relevant sources – whether that comes from surveys, our community, analytics from our own digital properties or third party platforms.

We don’t want analytics or research to live in their own bubbles, and we need to guard against that. It’s critical that we use all the evidence available to build the clearest picture.

For junior team members and new joiners, we actually teach them first about data – and later on we build up to the research skills.

This is partly due to the types of requests that we have. We have a high volume of data requests that tend to be more tactical; they require accessing data from a variety of different sources and providing rapid fire answers, which is better serviced with the junior members of the team.

The larger requests that require research combined with the data sources tend to be longer term and strategic, which is more aligned to the senior team members.

The main skill we actually look for is storytelling. Can someone build a good narrative? Can they use evidence to convince other people, show them a clear argument, lead them to a decision? Can they place our brands at the heart of the story?

If they have that, then it’s easier to build the hard skills needed for analytics or research. But it’s much harder to do the other way round.

MS: What new data sources or software tools are you working with now? What benefits and / or challenges do they bring?


We’re constantly investing in new tools and data sources for both research and analytics but also creating our own bespoke tools.

We just launched an insight community which lets us run joined up projects across our full Mail and Metro portfolio. We use a broad range of third-party data sources and panels like TGI, PAMCo, Comscore, Hitwise and Signal; as well as extracting data from Omniture and our Data Management Platform.

Where we are really innovating is using data from our 1st party data sources and turning them into valuable insight tools. One example is our ‘Pulse Poll’, a survey tool that sits in an ad unit on our page, is delivered through DFP (Doubleclick for Publishers – the Google AdServer) and can be targeted to bespoke audiences created in our DMP. These tools are our USP and are often used to provide clients with insight at all stages of the planning cycle

MS: Can you talk about any tangible benefits you’ve seen from joining up these different data sources, skillsets and tools?


Commercial storytelling is the most important for driving action.

We ran a project to support the sales of advertising on Sunday. We wanted to show how Sunday is a valuable day for consumers, in terms of spend and planning for purchase, and consequently how relevant Sundays are in the planning week for agencies and clients.

For this project we used first party research (qual and quant), 3rd party research, Hitwise data, YouGov data, website traffic, affiliate data, touchpoints, etc. to piece together a consistent story showing how brands can capitalise on Sundays.

This piece has helped conversations with agencies and clients and improved our offering, and been really well received.


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