Audience First: How our Data Management Platform is helping us make smarter decisions and products

Julio Preuss
Nov 1, 2018 · 4 min read

We’re trying to create better experiences for our audience in a way that we’ve never done before. How? By implementing a Data Management Platform (DMP).

DMPs are typically employed in digital advertising — marketers use them to optimize ad campaigns and publishers most often use them to increase ad revenue. At CBC, we’ll also use our DMP to target ads but with one main difference: the additional revenue will be used to fund more quality content for Canadians.

The goal of our DMP is to collect anonymous data about our digital audience. We want to improve content and ad targeting capabilities, thereby boosting engagement and advertising relevance.

We’re using our platform in four unique ways:

The DMP collects information from our users to help create products and programs that are meaningful and relevant to them. These small nuggets of data help us understand what our audience likes and dislikes, what’s popular within different groups of people, and where we’re succeeding or need to improve. It helps make the humans working at CBC make smarter decisions.

The information we collect doesn’t identify individuals, instead it creates “profiles” whose preferences resemble others and organizes them into audience segments. For every audience segment identified in the DMP, we have the option of generating something called an Audience Profile Report. These reports provide basic demographic information about the segment, such as age, gender, income, and education levels — but bears no indicator of who our actual audience members are personally.

A sample of an Audience Profile Report. (Julio Preuss/ CBC)

By looking at this data, CBC’s content producers, marketers and product managers can make more informed decisions about programming and product development. For example, in one of our early experiments with DMP data, we learned Murdoch Mysteries fans were the most likely to also enjoy the show Caught, so it made sense to increase the cross promotion between the two shows.

The Audience Profile reports also help us ensure that various products are being advertised to the intended audience. For example, we learned many Heartland fans are into adventure sports, so we can infer that an adventure sports company will likely see good results advertising during Heartland episodes.

Similar to the Audience Insights use case, this is all about making people more informed about our audience so they can make better decisions — in this case about advertising sales and placements. That said, we’re not talking about targeting ads to individuals just yet.

While the DMP helps inform the humans working at CBC, it also helps our systems make more informed decisions. In other words, it makes our products smarter. If the DMP knows you like to read Arts stories after lunch, for instance, the site could start displaying them more prominently in the afternoon. By showing our audience more personalized content, we hope it will generate more positive experiences with our products.

For example, after a recent design update to, we found that some people wanted one-click access to their favourite sections. To try to solve this problem, we are testing a dynamic navigation bar displaying each user’s most visited sections.

An example of how the dynamic navigation bar at the top of the page. In this instance, Toronto, Arts, Lifestyle, Radio, Technology & Science News and World News are the users most visited sections (Julio Preuss/ CBC).

The bread and butter of DMPs for most companies is selecting digital ads for different audience segments. What’s different about ours is that this is only one of our four use cases, and not even our most important one. We don’t only want to use our DMP for targeting ads to our audience, we want to use it to help create a more personalized and engaging experience.

Unlike the sales storytelling use case, ad targeting is all about delivering the right ad to specific devices. However, this doesn’t mean we give advertisers access to all our user’s data to target however they wish. Rather, the audience segments available for this kind of targeting are defined by CBC.

We realize people don’t always love seeing ads, but we hope this will help us provide them with more relevant ads. We’ve also given users the ability to selectively opt out of individual audience segments or out of ad targeting altogether.

Finally, and most importantly, we have an underlying principle governing our DMP: To allow people to safeguard their privacy and control how their data is used for their benefit.

We refer to it as the social license to do what we’re trying to do. We’re attempting to create a more personalized experience for our users, but ultimately it’s their data, so it should be their decision. If someone doesn’t like it, they can opt out.

You can learn more about our approach to audience data, tweak whatever information we may have about your browsing habits, and see the value of your data at work by visiting MyCBC at As always, we welcome your feedback. Are we doing a good job?

Safeguarding the privacy of our users is a priority. (

CBC Digital Labs

Telling stories about who we are, what we are doing, what we are learning, and how we are making decisions as we work to create the best possible experiences for Canadians in digital spaces.

Julio Preuss

Written by

Product Manager, DMP, at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

CBC Digital Labs

Telling stories about who we are, what we are doing, what we are learning, and how we are making decisions as we work to create the best possible experiences for Canadians in digital spaces.