Build vs. buy: the ultimate media database question

by | Dec 15, 2016 | Media, Media database

Back in November I had the pleasure of attending the FIBEP World Media Intelligence Congress in Washington, DC. Spending three days surrounded by some of the smartest people in the media intelligence (MI) field can be incredibly overwhelming — and rewarding. One topic came up time and time again: “I want to provide media database solutions to my clients. Should I build, or should I buy?”

It’s a fantastic question for several reasons. First, it clearly illustrates that from a client perspective, there’s an ongoing global need for media database solutions. But it also shows that vendors, of all types and sizes, are seriously thinking about this issue.

So, what does build vs. buy really mean?

Building your database

There are two potential routes when building your own database.

  • License content from a vendor
  • Hire a media research team to build your list.

For both routes, you also need to hire a development team, decide on the features you want to offer, and then get to work building.

The first path lowers your long-term cost, allows you to go to market faster, and puts the onus on your company to only keep the platform relevant and sellable. Those are the pros.

The cons of this license approach, however, are that your service will only be as good as your data quality. Pick the wrong partner and your service becomes a non-starter very quickly.

It also means you have very little control on what you can offer in the way of custom research projects, or fast updates if there’s an issue with the data. You’re at the mercy of your partner, for better or worse.

The second path offsets those cons: your offering is completely under your control but it is limited by your resources.

But, and it’s a big but… If you build your own data, your long-term costs are higher. And will rise quickly. Hiring and training a media research team, along with building or buying the tools they need (that’s a whole other issue!), and ensuring your database is regularly updated, can get expensive.

Buying your database

Your other option is to buy a media database, but again, there are several sub-options:

  • Partnering under a reseller agreement
  • White-labelling a database
  • Partnering under a referral agreement

Next you need to find the right partner or vendor – someone that will work with you to ensure you, and your clients, get what you need at the right price.

Partnering under a reseller agreement, with an API or white label, gives you the freedom to integrate the offering with your current services and price it accordingly. But you have to keep in mind that your partner will charge you per license, so each time you bring it to the table with a prospect, you’re pitching a value add to them and a potential cost to you.

Working under a reseller agreement means you avoid out-of-pocket expenses, and receive a pay out with each close. But it also means the sales process and client relationship around that service is owned by your partner, not you. It minimizes your wiggle room on pricing, and is heavily dependent on your partner’s sales team which can be good if they are responsive, not so if they tend to disappear in the middle of deals.

The truth is, adding any new service, and especially a resource-heavy media database, requires plenty of research and planning.

However, one of the best conversation pieces I heard at FIBEP was this:

“Changing your own oil in your car is cheaper, gives you a sense of accomplishment, and the opportunity to get a good look at your car. However, on a sunny Saturday, I would rather be cruising with the top down than lying on my greasy driveway.”

I think many organizations feel the same way about media database solutions.

P.S.  If you end up going the “Buy” route, contact me at ira.lacroix@agilitypr.com and I can provide recommendations on good partners/ solutions to work with.

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