Verizon is moving slowly to exploit consumer data for ads because it doesn't want to freak people out

  • Verizon’s push to take on Facebook and Google is moving slowly on purpose, outgoing media boss Marni Walden said.
  • The company is being careful about getting consumers to opt in to allow their data to be used for ads.
  • But Verizon is still pushing ahead with its ad plan, and hasn’t given up on the mobile video app go90 either.

Verizon’s plan to challenge the digital duopoly – Facebook and Google – in digital advertising is a slow mover, and that’s on purpose, the company’s outgoing media chief said on Wednesday. The wireless giant wants to be sure it does not alienate its subscribers, she said as it seeks to get them to opt-in to being tracked, said Marni Walden at Business Insider’s IGNITION conference in New York.

Verizon acquired AOL in 2015 and Yahoo earlier this year as part of an attempt to build an ad-targeting powerhouse that would exploit all of the information it has on its customers. The vision was to show ads to people on Yahoo and AOL, and across the web, using information that Verizon has – like where they live, how old they are and what kinds of apps they use on their phones.

That combination had executives at Verizon talking a big game about competing with the rich ad targeting available via giants like Google and Facebook.

But lately, Verizon’s been quiet on this front. That’s on purpose, Walden said.

“We took it a bit slower,” she said. “For the first year we slow rolled it. We’re now getting more opt-ins.” Walden noted that the company is also looking to licence data from other wireless carriers, as Business Insider first reported.Before the AOL deal, “we had a rich set of data and analytics that we didn’t have a way to monetise,” said Walden, but the company needed to do that in a “very responsible way.”

That won’t necessarily be easy, given that many consumers are wary of proactively opting in to be tracked by wireless carriers or other digital platforms. Regardless, Verizon is pressing on with its ambitious plan, said Walden, who is scheduled to leave the company in February.

Even with the Yahoo deal enabling Verizon to reach over a billion unique web users, “that won’t be enough,” Walden said.

Among the other topics the Verizon media chief hit on Wednesday:

  • Verizon is still moving forward with go90, the ad-supported web video app that has struggled to gain traction. She said that early on Verizon almost had too big a library of content available via the app, and the focus going forward will be on live sports and short-form original content aimed at younger audiences.
  • Verizon is pushing a lot more go90 content onto Yahoo and is less focused on bringing everyone to a single mobile app.
  • When asked about the recent consolidation in the media industry, and specifically whether Verizon is interested in acquiring some assets from 21st Century Fox, Walden demurred. “I was not the one who reached out to Fox,” she said.

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