Tapping the opportunity to turn anonymous data into your most valuable asset

July 26, 2018

App developers are waking up to the opportunities around their user data at the same time mobile advertising models are evolving and expanding to offer app publishers new ways to monetize their unique view of the consumer based on what they do with and within mobile apps. Our host Peggy Anne Salz catches up with Elliott Easterling, CEO, and founder of Twine Data, to discuss how his company is opening doors and opportunities for publishers to bring their data to market. Elliott also talks about the differences between “clean” and “dirty” data, and best practices to ensure you create value, not problems, for your business ecosystem.

Hello. Welcome to "Mobile Growth: The Podcast," series where Frontline Growth Marketing experts share their insights, experiences, expertise, everything they know so you can become a better mobile marketer. And I'm your host Peggy Anne Salz for MobileGroove where I help my clients grow their revenues and audiences reach their content marketing. And on my watch, as host of this series, I will be introducing you to the people who know how to drive growth or are doing something amazing to enable growth, and it's the ladder today because my guest is Elliott Easterling he is the CEO and founder of Twine Data. Elliott, first of all, thanks so much for taking the time.

Elliott: Absolutely. You're welcome.

Peggy: So it's great to have you here and as I said, enabling growth. So it's not always about like, you know, you UA, and ninjas, and all its stuff, which is a great part of our conference and also of the Podcast series. But you're doing something very different. You're gonna enable growth because you're gonna help publishers monetize the biggest best asset they have, even if they don't know, they have these assets. So tell me about Twine.

Elliott: Yeah. So Twine provides a data platform that allows publishers to better collect and control their key data assets. We also manage a true data CoApp, a very high-quality data that we make available to some of the biggest advertisers in the world to improve their targeting.

Peggy: So give me a little bit of a history because I mean, the idea is amazing and very timely. But I'm wondering, you know, have you been around for a while and just ahead of the curve or is this just great timing because this is when we're talking about the data economy. We're saying this is the new oil.

Elliott: Yeah, it's funny so our timing was very good. We started the business in late 2013, and sort of really formalized the product at the beginning of 2014, and the first clients came on in 2014. So we've been out there for a while hyper-focused on mobile apps, and mobile advertising, and debase data sets. But I think this is just an old idea, you know, you look back at the history of data, it really started with publishers in the 60s and 70s. You know, they had these key media assets and then they also started realizing that they had data assets, they were basically as direct mailers. And they didn't have a specialization in of working with those direct mailers and sort of what do you...how do you handle data licensing? How to handle sort of the nuances, and the privacy concerns, and data security concerns?

And a lot of publishers didn't have these capabilities and so what we're just doing is, you know, it's basically data 3.0 or even data 4.0. So we've sort of taken that same approach is really representing the interest of the publishers and in helping them navigate the marketplace of data commercialization. And also sort of giving them a lot back, you know, if you kind of think also can you go back to the publishers. Well, why did these early publishers want to collect data? A, it helped them sell ads, and B, they could create a nice recurring sort of passive income stream off of their data.

Peggy: And I mean, that the assets are valuable. I don't know that all app publishers are really aware of that. What do you tell them? I mean, how do you, obviously not all app publishers will get to that point about which data is most valuable, but just opening their eyes to the opportunity that if they're saying, "Hey. You know, I've got a game, it's not monetizing or hey, I've got it's app and it's not really doing what I want it to do." It's like don't worry. Not necessarily a bad thing because you've got a lot of data you can make a lot of, so what do you tell them?

Elliott: You know, well so the first thing is it's not for everyone, right?

Peggy: Yeah, I know they have an audience.

Elite: Yeah, so you got to have an audience and second, you have to have a business case to collect the data. If you really read the terms of service, and the developer terms of service, you have to have a valid business reason to collect the data. And in any company that is just collecting data for no reason, so that's sort of a good starting point. You second, you have to have a really good privacy infrastructure in place to be able to do this as well. But fundamentally, if you have a unique audience you can...there's a lot that you can sort of...a lot of value you can create from the data.

Peggy: So give me some examples because you have Twine Data, you have this Coapp. Tell me about the art publishers either you know have on board or the types that really are attractive to you.

Elliott: Yeah, so I think there is... You can kind of think of us as a generalist platform. Really, we represent the supply side. We help our publishers bring their data onto market. And being a generalist, we kind of operate across the broadest based of data types. The benefit of that also is then we also have this really broad base CoApp of data that we can bring value back to them. So by being a partner in the CoApp and being a member of the CoApp, they can actually get access to the entire CoApp of data. So, you know, kind of going back to the original question which is what makes a good contributor? You know, I think that first and foremost, location data is a great data asset in particular background location data. So apps that have sort of a business case to have always on the location data, the second sort of tier on that is foregrounded which is data available only when the user is inside the app. So this would be sort of one set of apps. If you have access to location of that, that's great.

Also really we're really keen on demographic data. So apps who have or might have a registration process, or someone might contribute their age, gender, or their basic demographics, that's also hyper-valuable in the marketplace. And we sort of take a step further beyond that. We end up validating and verifying that kind of data so that we sort of are building what we consider this sort of true data set. Other kinds of assets that are really interesting to us, we're sort of like a very strong specialist in the Bluetooth spectrum. So really understanding the interaction a phone has with other IoT devices or beacons through the Bluetooth spectrum. And so, if an app has Bluetooth capabilities, it's definitely something we're very, very keen on. And then finally, there just some sort of basic device characteristics that you might find like, what's the carrier? What's the language setting on the phone? And the android, we also of interest is sort of like all of the apps installed so what kind of...what are the broader app profile that you might find on an Android device.

Peggy: Yeah, that has a lot of value and what do you...going just at the basic level here, we're talking about the value of the data, what's the value to the publisher they get? I want to understand it because getting access to that CoApp doesn't sound so sexy but if you understand business, it can be very amazing because you're gonna get, you know, you have location data someone else has Bluetooth data, there's something going on.

Elliott: Yeah, so I think first and foremost, the value is trust and safety that we're doing the right things by the publisher representing their interest. And if your only goal is monetization, there are a lot of very unsavory companies that are happy to go in and make you very...make you lot of money. I think the difference between us is that we put privacy first, we put the business interests of our publishers first, and the inherent value of the data we kind of put that first. We don't want the data to be commoditized, we don't want it everywhere. But the fundamentals are benefits of being part of the CoApp bar, first and foremost, you can take your mobile ad IDs and bounce them up against a data set that spans almost half the U.S. population across 50 plus different data dimensions. And so, you can basically... We can enrich your data sets, your install base in ways that no other company I found in the market can. We can also make data available to you from the platform, so you can both be a contributor and also a net user of the data. So we can have... We can provision data to any media platform to help you with user acquisition and targeting. So there's a lot of our partners who are both members of the CoApp are also big consumers of some of the targeted capabilities we can bring. And then finally, there's monetization and the benefit we bring there is we're being very cautious and careful about where the data goes but it does create a nice steady income stream for our publishers.

Peggy: Well, we're just gonna have to stop you there for a moment, Elliott, but you know, I want to get back into this, I want to understand more about that richness because I think that's the real point here, that enriching the data is really truly that. It is rich, not just for the data, but it can make you rich, so we're gonna go to break. But don't go away, listeners, we'll be right back.

MGS: If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the Mobile Growth Global Event Series where thousands of the world’s top marketing growth experts come together to discover the latest in growth marketing innovation.  We run events all around the world in cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Berlin, Montreal and more and our candid panel discussions feature industry leaders including Facebook, Google, Uber, EA and loads of other top-tier publishers.  So, attend our lineup of intimate workshops and gain the in-demand skills you need to stay on top of your growth marketing game.  Expand your professional network and build meaningful relationships in a fun, friendly, publisher-first environment.  When and where can you get in on the action?  Well just visit mobilegrowthsummit.com for a complete list of upcoming shows and if you should decide to join us, an I hope that you will, then be sure to use our special promo code MGSPODCAST30 for an additional 30% off your ticket order.  We hope to see you there, I certainly hope to see you there and please enjoy the rest of our episode.

Peggy: And we are back. We have Elliott Easterling. He is the CEO founder Twine Data, an amazing company a CoApp concept. I just love Elliott, because it's not just about you know, getting the data because as you said before there are other companies that are just gonna use your money for your data. That's not sustainable, that's not even really nice. So it's probably not legal in many places anyway thinking that I'm based in Europe and GDPR is gonna watch you. Let's talk about the riches of the data, enriching the data because I'd like to understand scenarios, I understand it but I want the listeners to understand why that is a good thing.

Elliott: Yeah, so I think we kind of start with a premise of, you know, organizations or data-driven. What are of the data problems they need to solve? And there's also as apps become mature businesses, just like any mature business, they're gonna be very, very in need of rich data to help decision making, and sort of to help power some of the key sorts of strategic decisions of the future. So, you know, there's a lot of ways that data can support these businesses, A, in terms of understanding business intelligence, who are your best customers and why are they your best customers? And there's also like some interesting things that can be done in terms of connecting your best customers in your app with your best customers in retail locations. So being able to build linkages and identify linkages across different sets of customers is also really interesting.

Being able to get data back in ways that allow you to do better user acquisition is also really important. If you look...if you think of companies like Facebook, you know, what the world of programmatic is the best data, the best media, and the best algorithms, and Facebook has all three. Well, but, you don't have any control you buy it as a package and what we're seeing is a lot of companies out there really want to have a lot more control over their data assets. And really, a deeper understanding so that they can sort of operate independently and sort of tackle the programmatic marketplace with a lot more independence, not only being a Facebook or Google buyer. They are really looking for what's next beyond that. So I think those are kind of some of the biggest things. And the last thing which I think is really interesting is that if you're a publisher and you're going up against Facebook consistently, what are you offering that's different? What kind of audiences do you have that you can bring to market that you can empower your sales team to take on Facebook and Google? And that's one of the values that our publishers get is by coming on the platform, they can actually get new ad products that they're sort of they came in differentiation of the marketplace.

Peggy: And to be honest, you know, Elliott, you also, in a way, have covered all the bases that you could take on a different target. You could say talking about others taking on Facebook and Google. I mean, you could be like the eBay open place of data. Is that on the road-map for you?

Elliott: If I could just do 1% of Facebook's revenue, I'll be a very happy man. But you know, I think you look at Facebook, they have this really amazing rectangular data graph. And rectangular, I mean, by one axis as user, the other axis is behavior, demographics, psychographics let's have this amazing retailer data-graph. And we're just trying to reproduce that. So you know, if we can do that and do a 1% good job as Facebook does, I think we'll be very successful or we're more ambitious for that. I think we have a lot of data and there's a lot that we can do. Now, what's also really interesting is that if you have a really large clean set of data, well, that's the future of AI and machine learning requires really good data. And so that's our focus and so that's why we sort of put a lot of energy behind this idea of truth in finding the truth in data.

Peggy: Well, you got a great topic. I wanted to get there because of course, I'm excited because I understand what this means. This is like the richness for everybody. This is like you know, all boats float, everybody wins. But you have to think about the boogeyman, you know, the elephants in the room which is the bad things that you can do when you have a lot of data, and how we become suddenly extremely transparent. But, you know, you're focused on the truth of the data. Tell me a little bit about how we have to deal with the boogeyman or how you're dealing with it, so I can deal with you as an app publisher and say, "Yeah, I feel good about my decision to bring you my data."

Elliott: Yeah, so the first thing is you don't want to be on the front page of "The Wall Street Journal". That's the last place you wanna be. And so you have to do everything by the book and you'll find that that's kind of our point of view. It's you have to be or you have to have a business case to collect data, there has to be a value exchange for the consumer, has to be clear and transparent, there has to be notification in choices. So those are...if you're not doing those things, then, you know, you're...we wouldn't accept you as a member of the...to our data CoApp. But beyond that you know, I think that there's just a lot of unknowns. The first thing is the terms of service, are you operating within the terms of service of Apple and Google. And because that's important because your work...you're operating in a walled garden you're playing by someone else's rules and they can shut you off right away. And a good example that is, you know, the sort of the history the idea of fate you know, that came about because Apple didn't want people tying data to a permanent machine ID, UDID.

So they basically shut down UDID and introduced shortly thereafter ID for advertisers. And the purpose of that is to help support the ad economy, and if you're using the ID for advertisers for anything outside of the ad economy, you've got to be very careful, and you've got to be aware because you're gonna...you can fall foul of Apple. And we're finding that there's a lot of looseness in the way that companies are kind of to using some of these identifiers that don't really comply with terms of service. Beyond terms of service, you also really need to think about the regulatory environment, and local laws and regulations, and in particular the big elephant in the room right now is GDPR. And that's, you know, if you are like the penalties are massive like 4% up to 4% of your net global sales. And so companies like Facebook and Google are clearly very, very concerned about these the penalties that could be that could come from this. But even small companies should be very, very worried about this.

Peggy: I'm Just wondering, you know, app publishers listening in are probably saying, "Hey, you know, I wanna check this out, I want to understand more of it." Do you also do a little bit of education around this so that, you know, so that people can understand how to sort of make their data mobile ready for you?

Elliott: Yeah, so I think kind of what we...the way we like to think about is we'd like to make sure that data is collected in a compliant way, right? And so that includes things like GDPR compliance, it might include complying with U.S. software regulatory of privacy standards. So that's kind of the way we kind of think about it. I think any company should be thinking in that way.

Peggy: I mean, it's really truly, you know, and no pun intended here, but like a wealth of information, a wealth of data information for me. How would people stay in touch with you and understand more about trying maybe even maybe or even educating the industry outside of this conference about the opportunities? What they need to do? What makes for good data versus bad? Where will they find that?

Elliott: So you can find this on Medium. That's where most of our thought leadership lands You can also find us on Twitter and get updates from the website.

Peggy: On Medium. So I'm just curious because I'm gonna read up on this, I'm excited because I don't know if data CoApp. So what are you sharing out there?

Elliott: Yeah, kind of the way I think about it is that there's a lot of need for knowledge and education in the space. And so they're kind of our approach is really to try and be as educational as possible for folks so they can really understand from basically what does an IDFA? What is a mobile advertising ID? All the way through to one of the major things I need to know about GDPR. So we're trying to cover the basis for a pretty broad-based set of audiences.

Peggy: Well, excellent and a part of this is obviously being here in the podcast, I hope we've excited the listeners and got them thinking because it's an opportunity you don't hear a lot about because its time has come. So there you are, you were ahead of the curve, just a bit the timing is coming together for you indeed over trying and time is another topic because we've run out of it, unfortunately. But thanks so much for being on the show, Elliott. And maybe we will have you back again.

Elliott: Cheers. Thanks for having me.

Peggy: And that’s a wrap of today’s show, thanks for listening to this episode of Mobile Growth and a quick reminder to visit mobilegrowthsummit.com for a complete listing of our upcoming events. And don't forget to use the very special promo code MGSPODCAST30 for 30% off of your next order.  And remember no matter what kind of app or business you have this is the destination for everything you need to move the needle on growth. So, until next time make it real, make it matter, and we'll talk to you again soon.



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