By Justin Ellis
It’s a question every publisher asks: Who is my audience? It’s a question that can guide your editorial decisions and affect what advertisers you attract. Umbel, a technology company based in Austin, is trying to develop a kit publishers can use to extract a richer set of data about their audiences. And they just got funding through the Knight Foundation.
The Knight Enterprise Fund, Knight’s venture investment arm, recently took part in a $3.7 million Series A funding round for Umbel. The specific investment amount was not disclosed. This is the third project Knight has invested in as part of its $10 million fund for media innovation. Ben Wirz, director of business consulting for the Knight Foundation, told me the foundation was interested in Umbel because of its potential to help make for- and nonprofit media more sustainable through better data. “Traditional publishers have a hard time identifying what it is the audience is responding to in their content,” Wirz said. “Umbel brings scalable ways of doing that.”
The company describes its product as a combination of old-school market research and new-school web analytics. Imagine a scenario where a publisher is able to cross-reference a reader’s profile on their news site with information gathered through social media profiles and other online behaviors. The product, still in private beta, triangulates all the signals we leave around the Internet to try to create a unified picture. You can see how this would be useful to a news outlet that wants to better tailor its content for readers or simply needs better ammunition to raise their CPMs. (And you can see how it might raise the hackles of privacy advocates.)
“I think really our core value proposition is to enable publishers to take value of their inventory and give them data that is more precise,” said Paul Krasinski, Umbel’s CEO. The value return comes from reducing reliance on ad networks to sell inventory at lower rates and take a cut out of the revenue, Krasinski said. With the data provided by Umbel, a publisher has more nuanced information to take directly to advertisers. And they can do so without relying on audience surveys, which invariably rely on a small sample size and often yield little more than basic demographic information.
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.