To help publishers understand the role that Hum might play at their organizations, we caught up with Hum CEO (and Silverchair President), Tim Barton, for a Q&A.
What is Hum?TB: To a Hum user, it is an easy-to-operate and clever tool that helps them to do what all organizations say that they want to do: to make data-driven decisions. Hum can be applied to all areas and functions of a society: membership, events, publications, learning and certification, advocacy, marketing, editorial, digital, and sales. Its day-to-day users will be marketers, membership executives, content producers, and event planners, but it’s a C-Suite tool, too.
Hum works by connecting to all of the other pieces of an association’s technology stack and by collecting and organizing all of that data flowing through those systems. It also tags every piece of content that the association produces (and ‘content’ covers everything: research publications, blogs, webinars, meeting sessions, news, job boards, advocacy and policy, educational courses and certification, etc.).
Using Hum, a society is now collecting every critical piece of information about every individual’s interaction with it, including with its content. Hum generates a detailed and evolving profile for every user, and those profiles can be built up into segments. Those segments can be put to use to drive insights into and decisions about every aspect of a society’s operations. Segments can be combined and are endlessly flexible, for example, individuals who are frequent authors and/ or visitors to the website but are not members; or CIOs that have read deeply on a particular topic over the last 90 days but have not yet registered for a webinar on that topic.
Why is Hum needed?TB: Associations and societies have been organized into silos: membership, events, education, advocacy, publishing, news, etc. The technology to deliver each of these activities has been developed for that silo, and that silo alone, and the data sits with the technology, in those silos. This reflects the fact that the society’s activities have been seen as essentially different: each advances the association’s mission but there are limited connections to each other. Each has its own specialist set of skills, knowledge, systems, and people; functional specialization is seen to be what drives efficiency.
While this approach may have made sense in a pre-digital world, it means that societies are missing out on the opportunity that data now provides deeply to understand and transform its relationship with its membership and audience.
The most obvious benefit is personalization. What if, instead of an association’s relationship with a member beginning anew with each interaction, a society brought to bear the rich trove of data it had collected about each member’s history of interactions, and used that data automatically to inform and enrich every aspect of the member’s experience? An audience member coming into contact with a society’s ‘properties’ (whether website, email, journal article, learning, blog post, webinar, newsletter, etc) will be presented with content and offers that they are genuinely interested in, improving their digital experience on each and every platform. Over time, they will come to see the society as an organization that truly ‘gets them’.
A society’s ability to interrogate and segment its data, using Hum, and to test and pivot based on real-time insights, also transforms its ability to do the things it cares most about: advocate for its mission and make a difference in the world, grow membership, and grow revenues. There’s a story to be told about Hum in relation to each of those areas, but this Q&A focuses primarily on publishing.
Why should scholarly and professional research publishers care about Hum?TB: Hum shows how important ‘Publications’ are to the rest of a society. Publications have long been a major source of revenues, but Hum reveals their importance as a source of something that is now equally or more valuable: data. With many readers pouring through publishing artifacts every day, this data is often the richest source of real-time information on the interests and key concerns of the membership. One major association we spoke to said that publishing is responsible for around 90% of the data that the society is recording. The publishing ‘silo’ becomes the essential source of the data the society needs to personalize its members' experience and achieve impact in all areas of its activities. However, publishing is, in turn, a beneficiary of data collected on all of the society’s digital properties, able to leverage data about membership, meetings, education, advocacy, and so on. This level of content intelligence gives publishers a data-driven foundation for thinking about new journals, special editions, virtual journals, and ideas for other publishing formats.
Here are some of the main areas in which Hum could provide value for publishers:
- Segmentation and Personalization for Publishing Marketers
- Data and Commercial Revenues via valuable targeting for ads and other sources of commercial revenues
- Opportunity to monetize relationships with vendors
- Insights into recruitment of authors (and reviewers and editorial board members)
- New Content and Product Development research via in-depth content intelligence
- Personalized content recommendations, driving time on site and overall user engagement
What about other types of Scholarly and Professional Publishers?TB: Hum is most beneficial when it is connecting silos and using the new data across many different activities. That’s why societies and associations are Hum’s sweet spot: these are siloed organizations that do a lot of different things, all of which can be helped by insights from data gained across all silos.
Many publishers that are not societies can also secure major benefits from unifying their systems. Publishers often have their own disconnected tech stack, with systems like email, multiple websites, submission systems, publishing platforms, and marketing tech not being unified. Hum can connect these systems to secure those benefits I’ve already mentioned.
What about Society Publishers that have outsourced their publications activities?TB: While a decision to outsource may make sense from the point of view of leveraging the economies of scale that contract publishers provide, and a degree of financial certainty, have societies considered what it means for their data? I would assume that societies are not getting their data back from the publishers who provide those services. That is now cutting them off from the very valuable information that their publishing activities are generating. I am also not an expert on the uses that the contract publishers are making of that data. But if I were running a society, I would want to make sure that the next publishing contract I signed provided me with a data feed of exactly what I need in order to have the direct and deep relationship with my audience that I can now have. And I would want to understand (and maybe restrict) data usage.
Learn more about Hum:
Silverchair + Hum FAQs