EBU Big Data Conference: The discussions during Day 2

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Marco Lotti and Roxana Radu

The second day of the EBU Big data conference started with a keynote lecture from Ms Katz Kiely, transformation expert and CEO of BEEP, titled ‘Disruption for the better? Changing the way we change’. She emphasised that in the midst of discussions about technology, ‘people are, and will continue to be, our most expensive asset. Without the right people, we are wasting our time’. She explained that to understand why people resist new ways of working, it is necessary to understand how the human brain works. Behavioural psychology teaches us that people do not thrive in environments of uncertainty, apathy, and top-down decisions, which is often characteristic of digital transformation processes in organisations, leaving people stressed, resistant, less productive and less engaged. Therefore, it is necessary to provide transparency and opportunities for participation, send the right message at the right time, and make people feel valued.

The panel discussion that followed, This is not a big data project: Cultural change management (and how to overcome internal resistance)' further examined the topic of change in organisational culture, which is a necessary element of a data-driven strategy. Mr Jente de Ridder, senior web analyst at Humix, presented his research on the digital analytics maturity level of EBU members. The research is based on a framework that distinguishes between organisations that are ‘analytically impaired’, use ‘descriptive analytics’, ‘diagnostic analytics’, ‘predictive analytics’, and – the highest level – ‘prescriptive analytics’. He explained that maturity does not come from technological solutions: you need the right people. Depending on their stage in the maturity framework, organisations face specific challenges, such as a lack of awareness of the potential of data, a lack of management buy-in, and isolated teams of data analysts. And even for those who are most advanced, ‘innovation never stops’.

Ms Gunilla Ohls, director of strategy and business development at YLE, presented how YLE – the Finnish public broadcaster – has taken steps to change organisational behaviour to make better use of data. She explained that it is key for YLE to increase its relevance for people in their everyday lives, to invest in personal use experience, and to introduce a new form of working culture. She emphasised that this requires people to work together beyond their silos and embrace experiments. Ms Emilie Nenquin, head of CRM at VRT, provided a comparison between digital transformation in the media and the banking industry. The banking industry was forced to adopt digital change in the wake of competition, adopting strategies to ‘bring the bank to the customer’, while for many broadcasters, there is still a perception that generating content is key, and that ‘the user will come to us’. The media should be aware of the richness of the data that it is already collecting, standardise and structure its way of implementation, and embed this in the mindset of the organisation. She further urged organisations to ‘think big’ and ‘start small’, which will generate quick results and help get management buy-in.

Mr Ashley Friedlein, founder of eConsultancy, discussed the role of data in marketing and the importance of language. People are often unaware of what they mean when they say ‘data’ or ‘digital’. In addition, public broadcasters often use the word ‘audience’ (a passive mass of people) rather than ‘customer’. Changing this language could create an awareness that people need to be addressed at an individual level. Furthermore, he emphasised that ‘data is the new digital’, and new or separate data teams will ultimately be reintegrated into the organisation over time.

During the subsequent discussion, the panellists were asked about the most important prerequisite for change management. De Ridder highlighted the need to attract the right people and give them a platform to enable them to do things. Nenquin emphasised that it is important to start small and move forward, and Friedlein added that small beginnings need to be accompanied by vision and excitement, for people to be motivated and believe in the transformation.

The panel dedicated to ‘Personalisation: use cases’ was moderated by Mr Michael Barroco, head of software engineering, EBU. He explained that the objective of personalisation in media services is the delivery of the right content at the right time to the right device. The strategy adopted by the EBU for improving the quality of service also includes the co-development of digital products to provide the best experience via sign-on and data services. Mr Paolo Casagranda, senior research engineer, RAI, provided an overview of the new services that are changing the role of the radio to better match the changes of audiences and the different ways in which media nowadays is consumed. He presented three strategies of personalisation to keep radio relevant: First, the flexibility and the user-centric approach feature in customised services such as ‘live restart’, content recommendation, skip buttons, atomised news and hybrid content radio. Second, the personalisation of live radio via the mix of linear programming and audio on-demand could bring the programming closer to the needs of the audience. Third, the available time of the user and the context both matter, therefore input from big data processing (ratings, likes, geolocation, etc.) makes a significant difference in the radio offer. Casagranda gave the example of the pro-active, automatic audio content replacement on the RAI app based on a trial study carried out recently.

Talking about the Swedish Radio (SR) experience, Mr Henrik Tornberg, product owner and project manager, SR, presented evidence from their multidisciplinary team efforts in the past two years to personalise content as the biggest podcaster in the country. He explained that Alexa and Google Home are the new turfs to be conquered, since there is limited content so far in this area. They have been working on developing thematic episode playlists and automatic news playlists. The new SR strategy focuses on three areas: personal listening offer, episode as start page, data from user profiles. Tornberg’s team started working on the strategy after the adoption of the GDPR; their approach complies with the the GDPR and the EU provisions; the majority of their users allow the use of data for personalisation purposes. In addition to using algorithms to recommend programs, they also deploy them to puncture the filter bubbles of the users via editorial recommendations, which increase the listening diversity and the loyalty of the users. The strategic questions they are currently faced with revolve around cross-platform authentication in the case of pairing devices with home assistant services, the permanent recommender system infrastructure (should it be commercial, public service collaboration or built in-house?) and the relevance of the news offerings.

Mr Joan-Isaac Biel, data scientist, RTS, discussed the technical and organisational challenges of growing a data science team. More than gaining data insights and developing recommendation systems, RTS aims to integrate metadata quality, social media data and enterprise aggregated date into their management strategy. This started in January 2017, with web data collection, followed this month with mobile data collection and soon, with the integration of login in the web player. The data science team was established in October 2017. Biel shared three lessons from their experience:

  1. Start as early as possible (get support from top management and engage with the rest of stakeholders fast)
  2. Know your data before deploying recommendation systems
  3. Simple is better (quick ‘kickstart’ to data collection, ownership of data and know-how)

The session concluded with a presentation by Mr Anselm Eickhoff, software architect, BR and Rasha Hasbini, business manager, EBU-Eurovision, on multi-purpose personalised online video distribution. Eickhoff insisted that only agility will save the public media service at this juncture and there is a need to adapt to the new mindset by investing in software development platforms and innovation units. There are several end-user experiences – mobile, desktop, big screen, no screen – that require collaboration in new areas and represent an opportunity to co-develop. In his opinion, it is key to have an infrastructure that would allow teams to be as innovative as possible, including enabling completing new editorial workflows to give curation a much bigger influence. Eickhoff and Hasbini showed how MANGO – a reusable online video distribution platform developed in-house – worked as a proof of concept at the World Economic Forum Davos meeting in January 2018.
 

Implementing an SSO step-by-step

Mandatory sign-in for video content is currently the norm in VRT, BBC, RAI, RTBF. The RTBF

 representative, Mr Pierre-Nicolas Schwab, explained that the rationale behind the adoption of a sign-on system is multifold: on the one hand, the real-time recommendations and content portability are data-driven and essential; on the other, it is requested as part of the GDPR compliance and it is slowly becoming the standard in the industry. The choice is generally between developing such a system in-house (but maintenance might be costly) and buying it from a limited number of suppliers. For buying the solution, there is a fixed price (a minimum of ‎€10 000/month) and there are variable costs depending on the number of users. The RTBF opted for buying the single sign-on (SSO) system.

The technical journey to get users to sign-on was a complex one. One successful strategy was to organise a contest during sponsored events (concerts, festivals, etc.) to get people to register – the easiest option was with a chip identity card, which took seconds. All in all, 50% of participants created an account at sports events and 90% of these chose to use their ID identification instead of filling out  a form.

The key in convincing people to sign up was the communication strategy. As of 19 February, the SSO has become mandatory, but there is still free access to videos embedded in articles and geoblocking in place for the moment. The latter will soon be eliminated inside the EU (based on a self-declaration of the user and a European phone number). The RTBF engaged in a proactive communication campaign on account creation, also highlighting that possibility to have content portability in the EU (Belgians on holiday within the EU will be able to watch the content freely). Around 700 000 accounts were created so far.

Schwab stressed that in an ecosystem dominated by Facebook, Google and web-browsing, there is a need to reach the users directly and to get the data back. The SSO starts with a political decision, but the implementation might take 6 to 12 months, whereas full deployment generally entails another 12-24 months. The price starts at around 100 000 eur/year.  
 

Keynote: Children and data: How to shape a safe and enabling environment

Mr John Carr, member of the executive board of the UK Council on Child Internet Safety, started by outlining the UK context for the discussion on child protection. Whether Brexit happens or not, the UK will be bound by the GDPR framework, which is overall a positive legislative measure despite some limitations.

According to Carr, in the old EU data privacy regime, the word ‘child’ did not appear, nor was there a specific reference to age, with the exception of requiring the processing of data to be fair. Under this provision, there could be differentiation between child/non-child data restrictions. No data protection agency took any action in the EU as part of the previous regime in regard to the fair processing of data for children. The only occasion on which the Article 29 Working Party commented substantially, was the 2008 collection and use of data in the education system.

Under the GDPR, any person under the age of 18 is considered a ‘child’, as the GDPR acknowledges the primacy of international treaties (including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child). Any business allowing persons under 18 to use their services carries special obligations for addressing children, such as child-friendly data processing, (parental) consent, understanding that data is being collected.

A subset of children – individuals defined under Art. 8 of the GDPR as too young to give consent – require that the parents’ consent has been obtained before a particular service is in use. The age under consideration is 16, but each EU member state can decide to allow a lower age, as long as it does not go below 13.  This leads to variations in the legal regimes applied across Europe. Data processors have the obligation to do a risk and proportionality assessment on all services that they provide.
 

New data streams, new metrics, new techniques: revamping measurement

The final session, moderated by Mr Jeroen Verspeel, head of audience measurement, BBC, discussed the latest data-related developments in audience measurement, as well as new opportunities for research and analytics teams. The two panellists, Ms Eija Moisala, head of smart data and audience insight, YLE, and Mr Ignacio Gomez, director of analytics and new projects, RTVE, shared their experiences in the area providing data from their own work. New data sources have been added in the last years to the traditional metrics, including SSO data, return path data or data broadcast consumption, captured via HDD-enabled TVs in real-time. While there has been high reliance on third-party analytics solutions so far, there is a move toward getting back the control of audience data and combining sources for a better understanding of the users. Overall, we can observe the trend of switching from content-based analytics to user-based analytics (including age and gender modelling that is currently made available with the SSO and history data of the users).

This also means that there is no focus on shares anymore, but on change and on new metrics such as time spent on mobile phones, frequency of usage for those under 45 and active usage of the registered users. The long-term goals – such as overall reach – are not changing, but many in the industry are working towards a unified reach. Loyalty metrics are also followed, in particular via the breath of services accessed by a registered user.

Analytics and user behaviour have evolved significantly, Gomez concluded, allowing for new, granular capability to work with segmentation and consumption patterns. Whereas three years ago digital analytics were kept separate from TV and radio analytics, nowadays they are all considered together. Visualisation tools are also in use and more is extracted from data science. New organisation and skills are needed, but Moisala warned that many organisations hire data scientists too early, before there is a culture around data management and insights.

Among the new tools deployed in revamping measurements in the sector are: dashboards that allow all key people to have access to relevant information, profile recommendation and profile discovery to identify opinion leaders and popular anchors, etc. Many of these tools are deployed in collaboration with local universities in Spain, Gomez explained.  

The ensuing discussion focused on rating indicators and their relevance in the new digital environment. Since they are based on the density of viewing in a linear programming approach, they may not carry the same significance as before. Counting hours viewed might be more suited, but there are still limitations when it comes to comparisons and understanding what the audience needs.
 

Digital transformation initiative & mediaroad project

This session provided a short introduction of two new important projects for digital strategies hosted by the EBU. Mr Ezra Eeman, digital change manager, EBU, talked about the Digital Transformation Initiative (DTI) and its four pillars:

  1. Map and define public service media digital transformation (completed)
  2. Develop tools to measure digital transformation
  3. Create a knowledge hub and identify digital skills
  4. Support members with new digital services

Part of the DTI project includes the development of a toolbox – currently in draft form – which consists of urgency mapping, maturity assessment and a transformation grid allowing for the discussion of solutions. Additionally, the DTI best practices section allows members to find solutions and contacts across similar organisations. The next DTI steps consist of developing further tools and a knowledge hub, strengthening skills and defining new services and recommendations for member support.

Mr Nicola Frank, head of public affairs, EBU, presented the MediaRoad.eu project, funded by the EU through the H2020 framework. The focus of this project – Innovation and creativity in the European audiovisual and radio sector – is on bridging the gap between technology, innovation and creativity players, promoting and sharing technological advances and developing a longer-term policy vision. Forming new partnership with across different sectors is a complementary goal.

The MediaRoad project is built around three pillars: (1) a sandbox hub (innovation incubators allowing SMEs and start-ups to work within the broadcaster environment and test new technologies); (2) a policy hub to develop a longer-term vision for the sector; and (3)  a network hub (a series of events concluded with a final conference in summer 2019). At the end of the presentation, Frank invited anyone interested in the project to become an official MediaRoad stakeholder.
 

Wrap-up and next steps

The wrap-up session, led by Pierre-Nicolas Schwab and Guenaëlle Collet from EBU, highlighted a few take-aways from the event:

  • more organisations are moving towards being data-driven, but this has not reached all the EBU membership yet (more Eastern presence needed)
  • trust in public service media must be a key indicator for modern societies
  • change takes time, a minimum of 12 months needs to be factored in
  • attracting data scientists is challenging and so is the collaboration with competitors
  • the personalisation of a service is not a feature, but a journey
  • a data architecture and data science approach is needed for reaping the benefits of the digital environment

In the coming months, the EBU will present the results of the SSO mapping and will finalise the revision of the TRUST(ed) guidelines of 2016. The Media and Digital Summit will be held in Brussels on 18-20 April.

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