30 Apr 2019 | Case Study

Modern Data Stack Drives Business Opportunities for ALM

Ciara Rafferty
Ciara Rafferty
Modern Data Stack Drives Business Opportunities for ALM
With Fivetran, Snowflake and Tableau, ALM Media discovers why newsletter subscriptions are down, bulks up its Business Intelligence team, and begins to create an inventory of reporting dashboards.

Data Stack

Formerly “American Lawyer Magazine,” ALM Media is a business to business information media company that delivers premium content to professionals in the legal, financial services, insurance, benefits, consulting and commercial real estate industries. ALM offers subscription services to its professional clients and has been undergoing a massive transition from print to digital. ALM delivers news, analysis and events to over 100 evolving newsletters, hosts in-person events and provides on-site products.

When Director of BI Peter Woroniecki arrived at ALM in 2017, the business had limited standardized analytics processes. Many key reports were static PDFs coming out of SiteCatalyst once a month which took about two weeks to compile. The lack of analytical opportunity had a dwindling effect on the BI team: high turnover and a 50% reduction in headcount over the course of a year. As the company became more digital, Woroniecki saw an opportunity to make it more data-driven.

Piecing Together a Modern Data Stack

Prior to Woroniecki, the company relied on servers that were constantly running, expensive and not scalable. After further analysis, Woroniecki realized ALM needed a more versatile solution with separate computation and storage, and the ability to scale effortlessly. He knew that Snowflake was the right choice, having used it in the past.

“The beauty of Snowflake is the ability to scale up and down,” he says. “We have some data sets that are pushing a billion rows. In our old system, an initial load took about nine days to populate. In Snowflake, we can re-populate it in two minutes at a fraction of the cost.”

Similarly, Woroniecki had been using Tableau for over six years and worked to get ALM on board with the BI platform. “My favorite feature is the visualization within the tooltips,” he says. “The questions that the business asks of us are usually very pointed and it's hard to get all the data points on one dashboard to tell a story. The pop-ups offer a drill-down from the top line. It has been very beneficial for us in terms of talking through how to visualize data.”

Once ALM became a Snowflake customer, Woroniecki attended a joint Snowflake and Fivetran event. After Fivetran presented its solution, he was sold. “I thought: why would I spend six weeks doing an ETL project when I could just plug in?” he explains. “I knew this was going to save tons of development time for our team.”

Deploying Dashboards to Answer Key Questions

In the past, ALM didn’t have the proper infrastructure to answer many of the key questions that executives were requesting on a daily basis, such as, “Are the people that attend paying events our subscribers?” Now, however, the company can take data from a source system, put business rules into it, and create actual reports. Monthly reports that took two weeks to compile now take two days.

Currently, the BI team has a couple of dashboards to answer simple questions, but it wants to build up a full inventory. The company even hired a full-time employee to build Tableau dashboards. “We're trying to move away from taking constant daily requests and toward building out dashboards that answer these requests,” Woroniecki says. “Currently, we have emails that go out to a few people with data that they rely on, but we are working toward getting an inventory of about twenty dashboards out there. We want to become more sophisticated and we are heading in that direction much faster than we anticipated.”

One dashboard has proven particularly important for ALM. Using the data brought in through the Sailthru connector, the BI team was able to build visualization in Tableau to show how many newsletter subscribers were coming in versus going dormant to gain a better understanding of newsletter engagement. With newsletters driving over a third of website traffic, having a clear understanding of how users interact with the content is critical. “With the Fivetran connector, we’re able to build these kinds of visualizations in Tableau to get answers to our questions,” Woroniecki says.

Uncovering New Business Opportunities

Woroniecki is excited about the possibilities of centralized data for the entire company. Marketing has started using Tableau reports, and as more dashboards are built, more parts of the organization will benefit from the data. The editorial team will be able to see how content performs and gain an understanding of hot topics to write about. Sales will be able to understand who is reading and engaging with content.

ALM wants to be able to bring in DFP ad server data and analyze it against readership to start tiering out paying subscribers versus free subscribers, and to develop a better understanding of user engagement. The data has opened the door to endless possibilities for Woroniecki and his team. “We’re trying to scale up and connect the dots across more platforms,” he says. “This is possible now that we have our new core infrastructure starting to take form.”

Want to see the positive impacts of centralized data for yourself? Request a demo of our service or get started immediately by signing up for a free trial.

About Fivetran: Our standardized technology delivers data into your warehouse the right way. Shaped by the real-world needs of data analysts, Fivetran technology supports agile analytics, enabling data-backed decisions across organizations. After a five-minute setup, Fivetran replicates all your applications, databases, events and files into a high-performance data warehouse. Our standardized cloud pipelines are fully managed and zero-maintenance.

About Snowflake: Snowflake is the only data warehouse built for the cloud, enabling the data-driven enterprise with instant elasticity, secure data sharing and per-second pricing, across multiple clouds. Snowflake combines the power of data warehousing, the flexibility of big data platforms and the elasticity of the cloud at a fraction of the cost of traditional solutions. Snowflake: Your data, no limits. Find out more at snowflake.com.

About Tableau: Tableau helps people see and understand their data. The Tableau platform provides the breadth and depth of capabilities that enterprises need, and adapts to your environment with unmatched flexibility and choice, while meeting the toughest governance and security requirements. People love using Tableau because it is both powerful and intuitive. Tableau leads the industry with the most passionate user community, over 86,000 customer accounts, and a commitment to customer-focused innovation.

About ALM: ALM, an information and intelligence company, provides customers with critical news, data, analysis, marketing solutions and events to successfully manage the business of business. ALM serves a community of over 6 million business professionals seeking to discover, connect and compete in highly complex industries. Please visit www.alm.com for more information, and visit www.alm.com/events/ to learn about our upcoming events. Please follow us on Twitter @ALMMedia.

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