Piano Academy 2023 Unplugged

Experiencing face-to-face interactions with our customers has taken on an extraordinary significance in recent times—so an opportunity to connect, exchange insights, and, of course, savor a drink while taking in the stunning panorama of the Eiffel Tower sits atop our list.

We were able to do just that a few weeks back at Piano Academy 2023. Boasting an impressive lineup of nearly 60 speakers and drawing over 500 participants from 30 different countries, our second-annual customer conference left us reinvigorated and even more enthusiastic about the trajectory of our customers' success, growth, and future with Piano.

Although the two-day event was brimming with enriching content, we've distilled a handful of key insights and overarching themes that will guide us as we step into the new year.

1. Personalization is truly powerful— when it’s done right

“Personalization directly influences buying behavior across the whole journey. Not only in the purchase stage but also in the re-purchase stage and the recommendation stage. Personalization drives business. Moreover, customers expect personalization.... personalization has to be part of every journey."

York Walterscheid, Managing Director, Strategic Growth for Piano

The evolution of personalization is evident as marketers increasingly tailor content and offers to individual customers across various touchpoints. With the accessibility of behavioral data, customer feedback, and contextual information, marketers have ample resources to gather insights and craft experiences tailored to the unique needs of each customer. Karen Franken from Piano emphasized the importance of transforming an anonymous user into a potential customer, highlighting that understanding each user's likelihood to convert is crucial, and the more data available, the better the chances of conversion. 

While personalization is not a new concept, it has transcended being a mere luxury and is now an expectation among modern audiences. Organizations committed to meeting these expectations must have the appropriate tools in place. It goes beyond just collecting and analyzing data; the key lies in using that information in a meaningful, powerful, and real-time manner to create personalized experiences that resonate with individual customers. 

2. Battle subscription fatigue by building lasting relationships

“Understanding the funnel is extremely important in growing subscriptions. Simply because no one is going to subscribe cold. The most effective marketing tactic that we can employ is to nurture these relationships with readers to make them want to come back and subscribe. Newsletters are incredibly important here... We also started experimenting with registration wall strategy which also follows the same dynamic rules as the paywall now.”

Selma Stern, COO of Fortune

While subscriptions remain a crucial revenue stream, there's a growing sense of fatigue among consumers. According to a Kearney Consumer Institute Survey, 40% of consumers feel overwhelmed by the number of subscriptions they have. Navigating this landscape, publishers must employ a strategic blend of tactics throughout the entire engagement funnel to sustain audience interest. 

Alex Kreybig from Piano highlighted that around 40% of new subscribers commit within the first week, emphasizing that successful subscription models are more of a marathon than a sprint. The remaining 60% may take up to a year to convert, underscoring the need for a long-term approach. Propensity modeling plays a crucial role in this journey, showcasing the right mix of content and messaging to prompt action from various audience segments. 

Whether the goal is to convert new subscribers or engage existing ones, publishers can optimize tactics tailored to their audience. This adaptability is essential in an increasingly competitive market, allowing publishers to not only grow their audience but also retain it over time. 

3. Data unification is no longer a pipe dream

“In my 10+ years in the field of analytics, I’ve seen various kinds unbundling in analytics – into web analytics, product analytics, marketing analytics, ecommerce analytics, AV analytics, content analytics, advertising analytics... All these subsets have a place and solve specific problems for very specific teams and businesses. What I have also seen is the most business-critical objectives for a business can, and probably should, be measured by a very small set of metrics. And all the breakout sets have their own micro data points and inherently influence each other in order to contribute to the bigger picture. However, the only way to get to the real organizational metrics, is by unifying Analytics. ”

Nicolas Hinternesch, Director of Solutions Engineering, EMEA for Piano

Most marketers would agree with us that when it comes to data—its quality over quantity. After all, what good is data if it’s not accessible and usable? However, data unification is also an initiative that has never been more challenging as data sets continue to multiply and take on their own lifeforce—whether its website analytics, email subscriber lists, purchase histories or cross-device data. Maxime Hoton shared how on average, Chronodrive sees 36.1M pageviews, 2.9M sessions and 1.8M visitors – that’s a whole lot of data points to unify. Albeit a sizeable challenge, it can bring sizeable results.  

Reinforced by data from Piano’s 2023 State of the Industry Report we shared earlier this year, in 2022, 85% of publishers we surveyed attested they could attribute revenue to their data unification work, and in 2023, that number increased to 91%. The revenue they’re seeing is also increasing; in 2023, 39% of respondents reported unification-aligned revenue in the 21%–60% range, which is up by 27 points from 12% in 2022. This upcoming year, we expect to see more data unification initiatives helping organizations build data-driven cultures. 

4. Collaborative technology can break down silos

“When I look forward, I see still big silos between advertising and subscription. In my company it’s like that, and other companies selling advertising and selling subscriptions as well. You don’t always talk with each other... at the end of the day, what if we could decide dynamically, if we could show this user a bit more advertising before we show him the paywall, because he loves advertising and engages with it.”

Marc Isler, Chief Revenue Officer for Tamedia

Many marketers align with the belief that, when it comes to data, quality outweighs quantity. After all, what value does data hold if it's neither accessible nor usable? However, the challenge of data unification has become increasingly complex as datasets proliferate and acquire a life of their own, spanning website analytics, email subscriber lists, purchase histories, and cross-device data. Maxime Hoton shed light on the substantial task faced by Chronodrive, dealing with an average of 36.1M pageviews, 2.9M sessions, and 1.8M visitors—illustrating the magnitude of data points to be unified. 

Despite its considerable challenges, data unification yields substantial results. Supported by insights from Piano's 2023 State of the Industry Report, shared earlier this year, 85% of surveyed publishers in 2022 affirmed that they could attribute revenue to their data unification efforts. In 2023, this number rose to an impressive 91%. Notably, the reported revenue is on an upward trajectory; 39% of respondents in 2023 reported unification-aligned revenue falling within the 21%–60% range, marking a significant increase of 27 points from the 12% reported in 2022. 

5. Building transparency in the digital media supply chain

“The internet has a larger carbon footprint than the airline industry, and on average, an ad makes up 25% of an internet page. If it was a country, [the internet] would have a larger carbon footprint than Canada, and our industry makes up 25% of that.”

Amy Williams, Founder & CEO of Good-Loop

While the shift towards paperless advertising and eco-friendly products is often lauded for its environmental benefits, it's crucial to acknowledge the carbon footprint associated with the online advertising industry. The electricity powering the internet contributes significantly to carbon dioxide emissions, making it imperative for companies to prioritize transparency in the digital media supply chain to align with their sustainability goals. Good-Loop offered valuable insights into embedding purpose into business strategies to drive ROI, emphasizing the enduring impact of climate responsibility. We found her innovative perspective on reshaping business structures and advertising strategies particularly inspiring.

A strategic approach to data collection, as explored in the "Privacy & Sustainability: Making it a Virtuous Asset for Your Business" panel, presents another avenue for companies to bolster their sustainability efforts. The concept underscores the importance of data minimization, focusing on gathering only essential information to provide a personalized customer experience. This not only reduces business costs but also mitigates environmental impact by curbing unnecessary data storage. Importantly, the quality of data remains uncompromised even as extraneous information is eliminated. As sustainability and transparency become paramount across industries, companies that innovate and devise creative solutions are poised to lead the way.


This is just a snapshot of the myriad learnings, takeaways, and discussions that unfolded during our multi-day customer event, dedicated to the collective endeavor of building better businesses. A heartfelt thank you extends to all attendees and speakers at Piano Academy Live 2023. Anticipation is already building for next year's event, and we can't wait to continue the journey of insights and collaboration.