Reading Data Tea Leaves

With data playing an ever-increasing role in our burgeoning information economy, 2012 promises to be another transformational year for our industry. While 2011 was the year of the data management platform for early adopters, 2012 will be the year that data platforms become more mainstream. Here’s what to look for:

1. As the DMP market continues to develop and this year, the enterprise DMP will emerge as an entity distinct from the DMP tied to a media-execution platform. Rather than only focusing on real-time bidding-driven click optimization, an enterprise DMP provides segmentation to drive display targeting, site optimization, search targeting and retargeting, audience analytics, tag management and CRM on-boarding. This allows a marketer or publisher to segment once and transact those segments everywhere providing the enterprise with freedom from any one media-execution platform. As a result, data segmentation, computation and storage will be separated from the media-execution and media-buying platforms.

2. Get ready for a new acronym: PaaS, or platform as a service. Think of it as big data meets advertising. Most DMP providers already provide their software as a service. This year some of them will decouple their services from their user interface by providing their platform as a service. Rather than forcing companies in the ecosystem to utilize one interface in capturing the value in a SaaS service, DMP providers will increasingly package their developer APIs and provide service-level agreements in order to open up their services for others to build applications on top of them.

3. Fewer players. Those FNACs — feature not a company — will get absorbed by other data companies. Big marketers are increasingly thinking about ways to separate their data from their media platforms. While this presents significant benefits, it also requires significant work. Once completed, they won’t want to integrate with the many different layers in the data stack. Instead, they will want to look for one data platform to do all the heavy lifting for them. That will drive consolidation.

4. Audience quality will get a jury rather than a single judge. Current approaches in the data quality space involve one vendor dictating the “truth” about an audience. This year platforms will utilize the collective wisdom of all audience providers to collectively judge any one-audience provider. The result will be much more reliable and robust.

In a world of rapid change, openness and portability in all its forms will define the data management space next year and beyond.

Omar Tawakol is CEO of BlueKai, a data management platform.