Late last week, Glamour announced a partnership with Facebook. Using insights from Facebook's audience-level data, they would lead town hall discussions in order to bring light to the issues that women are already discussing on Facebook during this election season. At first we thought the initiative was an incredible idea, but then we read this piece by Li Zhou in The Atlantic and began to reconsider.

In "The Slippery Slope of a New Facebook Partnership," Zhou intelligently describes how this partnership is different from other media partnerships Facebook has had in the past with publications like CNN, BuzzFeed and The New York Times. Whereas historically, Facebook has partnered with these companies to test out new and innovative content delivery methods like Instant Articles, the difference with the Glamour partnership is in the data. The piece reminded us a lot of the early debates around ad-tech solutions like retargeting, so we wanted to explore further.

Can Data Ethically Inform Journalism?

In the Atlantic piece, Zhou argues the following:

But something about this Glamour arrangement—about a publication so overtly using data from Facebook to shape its content—feels odd. While this partnership could foster relevant, compelling conversations, a more cynical view would be that it’s the perfect recipe for the ultimate click bait: plucking content directly from reader’s brains, and then presenting it back to them on a silver platter.

She goes on to suggest that it's journalism's duty to report on and explore stories that don't necessarily churn out clicks and pageviews. As she puts it, "when audience desires are integrated so fully into the creation of content itself, stories may become more democratized, but they also run the risk of losing originality, or of challenging readers’ assumptions."

That's why this feels different. As separate, but related industries, media, advertising and tech have all grappled with the effect that data has on users. That doesn't mean, though, that we're headed toward a world where data rules all. Headlines get optimized for clicks a la Buzzfeed, but political exposés in The Washington Post still exist. Target collects data points and advertises diapers to you before you even know you're pregnant, but there's still a place for the lowly highway billboard. Companies like Apple take on the FBI when it comes to privacy and security, but users will still share their most intimate moments on Instagram.

We're living in a world where these paradoxes exist. As we continue to grow and live with ever-changing technologies, we'll experiment with the data that technology provides. And that's a great thing which shouldn't immediately instill fear. We didn't stop writing letters when the telephone was invented (heck, there's still a place for a physical thank-you card, even in a world of email and text messages).

While Zhou's arguments are important and well-made when it comes to journalism, we couldn't help but think about a different kind of media, namely content and influencer marketing. Journalists have a duty to ask questions, while content marketers have a duty to answer questions. And for the past ten years or so, publishers, advertisers and tech companies alike have been exploring how to exploit their strengths and assets in order to make the internet a better (and more lucrative) place. Below, take a look at how those relationships have settled:

Looking at the above, the new Facebook and Glamour partnership falls where blue and red overlap. Personally, we see nothing wrong with the relationship, especially when the details are disclosed. If the technology exists, innovators should fearlessly innovate in the face of naysayers.

So, What's Next?

There are a handful of companies that deal in all three spaces outlined above, and here at Chicory we count ourselves among those lucky few. As advertisers and marketers, we're committed to finding new and effective ways to reach customers. As a data company, we're always analyzing our data in order to better understand audiences and content trends. And as a network of publishers, we understand the trickiness that comes with recommending products to readers or creating "clickable" content while still retaining our integrity.

We're experimenting with where the venn diagram completely intersects by offering products like "Chicory Peek" to publishers and advertisers. And we're always thinking about ways to figure out more native advertising solutions.

How Audience Data Affects Media
How Audience Data Affects Media

The new Facebook and Glamour partnership falls where blue and red overlap. Personally, we see nothing wrong with the relationship, especially when the details are disclosed. If the technology exists, innovators should fearlessly innovate in the face of naysayers.

So, What's Next?

There are a handful of companies that deal in all three spaces outlined above, and here at Chicory we count ourselves among those lucky few. As advertisers and marketers, we're committed to finding new and effective ways to reach customers. As a data company, we're always analyzing our data in order to better understand audiences and content trends. And as a network of publishers, we understand the trickiness that comes with recommending products to readers or creating "clickable" content while still retaining our integrity.

We're experimenting with where the venn diagram completely intersects by offering products like "Chicory Peek" to publishers and advertisers. And we're always thinking about ways to figure out more native advertising solutions.

That's just us, though. And we don't mean to imply that all companies should be trying to do all three: advertising, data and publishing. Instead, companies should experiment with these new intersections, like Glamour and Facebook are doing.

It took everyone a while to figure out things like sponsored content or ad retargeting, and it will continue to take time as we experiment with data-informed content. Branded content and content marketing are two avenues to go down, but we're excited to see more partnerships like this election coverage initiative. And that doesn't mean we have to say goodbye to traditional journalism nor traditional advertising as avenues. It just means we have lots of new routes and intersections to get to where we're going.

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