Introducing the Neutronian Data Quality Podcast, a show designed to dig into the topic of data quality where we will share examples of data quality issues that can arise and aspects to consider as you are evaluating marketing data.

In our first episode, Neutronian CEO and Co-Founder, Timur Yarnall, chats with Michael Gorman, SVP of Product, Business Development and Marketing at ShareThis. Michael shares his thoughts on data quality overall along with perspective on how ShareThis has focused on quality while evolving their business over the past year and preparing for upcoming major ecosystem shifts like the impending changes in identity resolution.

Click on the link below to listen to this episode or read the trasnscript and stay tuned for future episode of the Neutronian Data Quality Podcast in the coming weeks!

Episode One

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Read the transcript here:

Introduction: Welcome to the Neutronian Data Quality Podcast, a show designed to dig into the topic of data quality, where we share examples of data quality issues that can arise and aspects to consider as you are evaluating marketing data.

In our first episode, Neutronian CEO and Co-Founder, Timur Yarnall, sits down with Michael Gorman, SVP of Product, Business Development and Marketing at ShareThis. Data quality is a key value to Michael personally and for ShareThis as a company. We thought it would be helpful for him to share his perspective on data quality, along with how ShareThis has focused on evolving their business over the past year while preparing for major upcoming ecosystem shifts, like the impending changes in identity resolution.

Timur Yarnall: Thank you. And welcome to the Neutronian data quality podcast. So, this is a Timur Yarnall I'm the CEO and Co-Founder of Neutronian. We are a B2B SAS platform that measures the quality of data in Marketing Tech. And by me saying that you can tell that this podcast is focused on being a little bit of inside baseball for the Marketing Tech community because I've already used acronyms and lingo that are specific to our ecosystem.

But, want to welcome today, we've got Michael Gorman with ShareThis. And part of our intent here at Neutronian is to highlight transparency and our customers that we consider good actors in the ecosystem and Michael, and ShareThis are among the first to go through Neutronian data quality certification. So welcome to the podcast, Michael.

Michael Gorman: Thank you, Timur. It's great to be here.

Timur Yarnall: Good! Can you give us a little bit of background on your role and what you focus on at ShareThis? And then just a little bit of what brought you to be part of the ShareThis team in terms of previous roles?

Michael Gorman: Oh, cool. Yeah, I think, just a quick "what is ShareThis" for your viewers or auditors. ShareThis is, we've been around since 2007, but we've evolved a lot since the early days. , though we still have our roots. You probably, people would know ShareThis as the company that, one of the companies that started sharing tools back in the early days of social networks. So, we got that green sideways arrow that you recognize as the symbol of sharing. That's a ShareThis invention. And we put the buttons on pages that help people share content and it drives traffic to the publishers that use our free tools.

So that's the core of the business, but we've really in the last half decade become exclusively from the point of view of our business model, a data company. And we map human topography by synthesizing social sharing and other online data , turn it into interest and intent data.

That's what ShareThis does. And as far as my role I oversee marketing, product and business development. So, it's the connection between what the company sells and what we make are my responsibility.

Timur Yarnall: Great. I have a personal affinity for ShareThis just because actually my first startup in 1998, we had developed some content management and sharing tools, but the market was so different, we could only just charge a license fee for them. I think that ShareThis in terms of giving publishers these tools for free and then having analytics is very innovative and is a great way to provide some scale I think, as evidenced by, how many websites do you now work with? Or how many actually feed into your?

Michael Gorman: We have about 3 million publishers around the world. I think it's 220 countries that use our tools too, and generates about 20 billion interactions with consumers every month.

Timur Yarnall: It's pretty amazing. So yeah, when my previous, we had really just focused on US publishers because it was always kind of hand-to-hand distribution or pick up the phone and do that versus I think you've created a model where there's the ability to download some tools and share and then, and have that be just a very automated basis so that's great.

Your previous role and background you've worked in MarTech for some time, is that right?

Michael Gorman: Yeah, I was, I've been at it quite a while. I got involved like you, I got involved in the internet in the late nineties as it was getting off the ground. I was a part of a company called Digital Impact and one of the management team there. And I was very much involved in the transformation of Axiom from a purely offline company into an offline and online, a digital company. Which was, it took a few years, it was a big transformation, but ultimately worked out really well for the company.

Timur Yarnall: So many of us who've been in MarTech, AdTech, since the inception, it's a, it's a bit of, we love it and you get to the point where it's the godfather, right? Every time you try and get out, they will pull you back in. Is that what it is?

Michael Gorman: Yeah, I love data. I love analytics and it's, I've always been drawn to it in my career. We started, early before coming to AdTech, I was in media and consulting and finding that gap, the intersection between marketing, media and technology has always been my sweet spot.

Timur Yarnall: Yep. Yeah, and I think for me as well, and you may echo this, we've seen so much evolution and we're facing so much evolution to today, we'll get into in a second, but I do feel that the pace is part of what draws us all to it, right? So, we get to work with smart people and run into very difficult challenges, just like we are today.

Michael Gorman: Absolutely. Just when you get comfortable, let's change the fundamental basis of identity. How about that for 2021?

Timur Yarnall: Exactly, right? That brings back to the emergence of social, the emergence of video, every other challenge that, how are we going to deal with this?

So anyways, thank you again for being on. ShareThis is one of the first, I think you were actually the second platform that cleared the hurdle for Neutronian certification. So, we've got more that we'll be announcing, but being among the first is great. We also have some that have tried to achieve a certification that haven't made it yet. You are to be congratulated on doing that and I think specifically on the willingness to be transparent. You mentioned the 3 million sources, my team has actually reviewed that list. And as an auditor, that's very important because we can only audit what we see and you and your team, I think we're, are very forward-thinking in realizing that the necessity of an audit is critical there, just as with a financial audit, because there are players who are still not willing to do that. So, I wanted to say thanks.

Now as we define data quality at Neutronian, we are trying to be comprehensive and look at a broad spectrum. Everything from, compliance tools to source transparency that we mentioned, to the data modeling methodology and performance. Can you give a little bit of what is your view? What is ShareThis' view on data quality? Just from a cultural standpoint. I know that's a broad question, but with your background, I'm sure that's something you took on too when you took the role.

Michael Gorman: We think that quality is a basis for our go to market, we believe that our data stands up well in use because of everything we do to make it high quality from the beginning. And so that's why we're attracted to the Neutronian value prop, because to the extent that we can expose the differences that go into our data, it helps make the case that we're, that our data really is different. And two components for us, if there's like the one face of quality is that, that it should not, that the data should not have defects, that it should be made in an effective way. And I think that's what most people mean when they're thinking, when they talk about data quality, these days, that's the data quality issues, the data doesn't have good quality, quote unquote. But there's also the, I think another way people talk about quality is that when they talk about a high-quality product, or this is the best quality in this product of this type and that way is more how does your product Excel? How has it the best of its kind? Not just how does it meet a standard?

So I think, we're focused on both of those. I think Neutronian's framework is particularly valuable for us to demonstrate that first kind of quality, that we build data in a high-quality way from the bottom up. And so, it's not just, a lot of quality focuses on is it accurate or not, but quality starts with, as you say, where do you get the data? What's the, what's your collection methodology? The compliance at these days, it's just as important to manage compliance as it is to collect great data and great sources. And for us, we know we leverage a lot of data science in order to pull meaning from the data.

Timur Yarnall: How much do you think buyers trust what your team says at face value versus what they may hear from another provider? My view on it is biased, but I'd like you to say it first.

Michael Gorman: I think we, we say it a lot because we feel like we have to in order to stand out from the crowd. We try to, for us, a simple way to put it across is our data is real. We collect it really from, we're involved in its collection at the source and we can be transparent about where it comes from. We don't add other data sources in, we don't model, we don't do extension. We provide a list of users for targeting. They are people who have been observed on pages where we are present and we carry that all the way through. So that's hard. But it's a complicated market in that many people are using, any word that becomes a popular word everyone starts to use it, whether they really do it or not. And so, the ability to have external sources of truth, I think is just something that helps cut through the noise.

Timur Yarnall: Yeah. I would describe, obviously my view is a personal opinion, but it feels like generally data providers are being asked more and more to prove this level of quality, even to the point where everyone is almost guilty until proven innocent and not having some third-party verification. So, I think the willingness to be verified and measured is important. It's critical. I know we're hearing that from buyers, but we've got to the point where I think to say the entire market on data is viewed as a fast-food market and there is no differentiation between high quality and low quality and those that are trying to be perhaps a bit more organic versus not worrying about, things like consent and compliance.

Michael Gorman: Absolutely, you look at something like viewability, it's a whole segment of our industry that has grown up just around demonstrating that things actually happen the way that they're supposed to. So there's clearly demand for it.

Timur Yarnall: Right. So, in your role, you're in an interesting intersection of product and marketing, you've got to be on the hook then for what has happened and what you're saying about it. How do you communicate internally, both at the board level conversation all the way down to day-to-day, water cooler conversations such as they are? How would you describe how you balance that?

Michael Gorman: I think in the product role it's, I really have a lot of opportunities in every conversation around key decisions or how I choose to spend my time and how I explain what we're doing, I have the opportunity to reflect what the values are and how, we're not going to make trade-offs or how the tradeoffs were balanced.

And, we have a pretty open process internally, we're updating the team on the roadmap in a major way, every quarter. But I think it's actually much more in the day to day, where we're making decisions or facing challenges, and do we actually protect quality moment to moment? And when it costs money or when or when you could cut a corner. And so that's really where I see the big opportunity to reinforce quality and product.

And then in marketing, I think that's such, I feel a big responsibility for, to try to take the investments we make and make them tangible and understandable. And people don't have to work to understand why, what we've done and why it's valuable to them.

Timur Yarnall: Great. I think with ShareThis I think everyone in the ecosystem and I even as a partner, as an auditor, immediately grasps scale, and the potential for scale with ShareThis. Where I think the elephant in the room or the skepticism may always lie, and even for me coming into the audit is how can you really address the concept of consent when you're managing at scale like that?

And I think you've got some unique solutions in a unique way to address that. So, can you just talk a little bit, how do you manage consent at scale across this massive network?

Michael Gorman: Yes. We've recognized that, in 2020 and beyond a company that's going to be in the data business, you need to be committed not just to great data, but to being stewards of the data from the perspective of the consumers whose information is being collected. So, we've added that in our corporate purpose and we spend a lot of time and effort on it.

It starts with, in the process of signing publishers, of clear notification of their obligations to give to consumers notice and choice and be compliant with the regulations in their jurisdictions. And then for us to monitor that over time, to audit it, to communicate back to our publishers and encourage them.

We also, one of the decisions we made as GDPR was rolling out, we're in the tools business so we offer a consent management platform tool, and we offer it as a free tool. And we promote it pretty heavily across all of our other tools to our publishers, especially to the European base publishers. We've added thousands of publishers in and hope to add many more. Even though GDPR is out there, that the community of websites is still in the process of adopting its precepts. And so, we're trying to be advocates and enablers and help move the industry along and be straightforward about where it is and as you say, transparent.

Timur Yarnall: Yeah, and I think that's impressive. You almost have to change the name, but you're now "ConsentThis" too. You're actually offering a consent management platform. So that's impressive that you made that to offer that for free to publishers that take your tools. So, to me, that was a kind of a standout effort and is a clear example of good faith in terms of managing consent at scale.

Michael Gorman: And it gets us into the whole business of managing and consent strings, which if you're into this world of consent, it's that data is no longer just data about what happened. It's also data about what was the permission or consent that was obtained at the time the data was collected and where was it obtained? And that's now in for all of our European content, we only deal with data that comes with consent.

Timur Yarnall: Great. That's great in terms of talking about the managing consent, user consent at scale. And I think again, impressive that you've got a consent management platform that you offer to your partners for free.

Let's shift gears for a second. And talk about this massive shift that the ecosystem is undergoing now, as Google has decided to phase out third party cookies, we've got more and more restrictions on gathering ideas and the various browsers, mobile browsers, et cetera. And so much of that is tied to the regulatory environment as well. CPRA has passed and so the California privacy laws are only going to get stronger. Which I think overall, we all agree is actually a good thing for the ecosystem, we're going to adapt to this new world.

How do you see that evolving your business, ShareThis, and then just generally in terms of looking at data quality overall, what does that make you think of?

Michael Gorman: Interesting. I think from ShareThis' was perspective we're getting excited about this development . The cookie itself has certainly served us well, but it's got a lot of shortcomings in its use and it's never been, there's always been issues with accuracy and persistence and quality.

Timur Yarnall: Certainly one of those things that's been around since day one in the 90's, when we started, right? And hasn't evolved much since then.

Michael Gorman: That's right. Yeah, it was a very clever improvisation. You got to give credit where it's due, but this is sort of forcing us to try to address identity in a more sustainable and again, transparent way. And I think, where ours is an industry that has grown up through collaboration and what I see is a real upwelling of collaboration in the industry where all the different companies in their different roles have different things to contribute. We're interacting with consumers, some are in a good position to obtain consumer consent for use of their data and for use of data related to identity, others are in a better position to enable that to be connected and to be employed.

So, it seems to me that companies are stepping up to fill the roles necessary to create a system of identity management that's going to provide the connectivity. And from ShareThis' point of view, we think we've got a lot to offer to the table because we are, we interact, we're on publisher sites and collect the data directly.

Nothing really changes for us in this environment in terms of how we collect data, and we have a lot of opportunity that can contribute to the overall, fidelity of the system. We also have established direct integrations with a lot of the players that are coming up with the identity solutions, universal IDs, et cetera and the scale and experience in exchanging information with them, in real time or server to server.

We're anticipating being able to contribute. We developed our own sort of new identity solution, a new way of doing cross site profiling. We've developed a ShareThis ID that will replace the third-party cookie ID for our internal uses. And we're having conversations with all of our important partners, determining how and when we'll make our transition to the new identity solution and expecting that to happen at some point next year.

Timur Yarnall: Great. And for me, as Neutronian, as we're standing up a data quality framework, I think for you as well, one of the fundamental things happening in the ecosystem is that brands and publishers are being encouraged to understand their first party data and then to leverage it, which means mix it with other providers. And I think adopting Neutronian as a data quality framework is important because if there is not a data quality framework in the middle then who knows what they're mixing with, other than case, by case due diligence, by due diligence upfront and every situation is unique. So, as you get to that commonality, I think you've done an impressive job with, as I understand it, working with a pretty wide swath of the different identity frameworks.

Michael Gorman: Yes, we've worked with LiveRamp, The Trade Desk is a good partner. We've actually developed a relationship with ID5. TapAd has been a company we worked with over the years. Those are just some live examples of some of the companies I think, positioned to play a part and it's been stepping up. And in a sense we are a first party in that our tools are integrated into the sites of our publishers and provide a key role of key function for them. So, in that sense, we have some first party data to contribute to the process and subject to the permission and consent constraints of the promises we make to consumers.

Timur Yarnall: So talk more about 2021 in general. So, in terms of 2021 and I think the other major elephant for all of us is the pandemic. So, you've got two massive things and in general, I think we all saw a dip or a freeze in April/May and we've seen restarting the economy. But can you talk a little bit about how you see that impacting the business landscape and solutions and just 2021 overall?

Michael Gorman: Absolutely. It's been a crazy year and a challenging year because of the pandemic. A unique in my lifetime, for sure. But it has definitely given ShareThis an opportunity to add a lot of value in new ways to our customers. We think of ourselves as creating a kind of a topographical map of human interest, built up from the raw material of what people are showing interest in online. And so, we've been able to watch as the shape of the map has changed this year, as first health became the concern and then certain products, and then the different online shopping surging forward and people worrying about fixing up their patios and then travel is down and then it's up a little and then it's down. So, we've been able to observe and reflect to our client base as those changes have occurred.

And I would say that we've settled into something of a new normal in that the data, the consumer behavior was totally scrambled in March, April, and May. It is settled in now, to be more stable month to month, but the patterns are totally different than they were, and I suspect we'll never go back to the same distribution of interest and online behavior that we had so we're seeing that as an interesting phenomenon that companies are dealing with.

We're seeing more demand for new data sources. You look at things like the AWS marketplace and snowflake . There is a growing set of datasets that are out there that are offering people a window into new consumer behavior and an appetite for data sources that could help illuminate that both at the broad level, like our own, and then very specific things, industry by industry, topic by topic.

So I think it's going to be a great time for the data business, because even though people are falling back on their first party data resources, there's also the recognition that things have changed and an appetite to find ways to get a window into new behaviors.

Timur Yarnall: Yeah. And I think when you say things have settled a bit, agree or disagree with this, I think it settles and we had the pandemic than we had the social injustice widespread protests. And I know that ShareThis has been very topical in responding to that with the analysis and the creation of social justice, interest segments. People were really passionate about that. And then we scrambled again, with the election. So, are you seeing things settle around a particular area and then move on? How do you describe that? How do you see that today?

Michael Gorman: I think that one of the key trends that just hasn't gone away month to month is the continued growth of online shopping. And so online as the means by which we get the goods we need to live that trend is one that has been transformed I think. And then there are other areas like entertainment and travel that are still very much depressed and waiting for it, outside of streaming TV, if you get into obviously concerts and anything involving in-person.

Timur Yarnall: I was impressed with how ShareThis analyzed the social justice interest, because obviously there's so many angles to it, but I think one thing that is certainly here to stay is that brands have realized that type of engagement and, or a particular dialogue is vital for the building out of their brand. And I imagine that you saw very strong interest in that across your customer base.

Michael Gorman: Yes, I think it did. It opened up a lot of conversations. It brought some new customers. But I think it was really appreciated and we're following up on it. We've created a data for good branch of our data taxonomy around social justice. We see it both as a way to give back and as you say, as a way to cater to a growing perceived need on the part of brands that it's not enough to make a great product, you actually have to stand for something, or you have to somehow make a difference in the world in addition to making a great product.

Timur Yarnall: Right. So, what else in 2021? You've got business objectives, I think you and I both agree that the regulatory environment is not going to slow down anytime soon, CPRA, there's a big shift in the location data marketplace that's happening and other platforms that use that.

Michael Gorman: Online shopping, the trend and regulation is up and to the right and likely to remain. But like you say, on the other hand, I hope we can reach a kind of stability there where the level of safety and reassurance that consumers can take in how their data is being treated and then what happens as a result of participating in online. I think it's unrealistic ever to expect people to be excited about the fact that advertising is more targeted, et cetera. But to not consider it a source of concern, I think is where we want to get to.

I saw that happen in the email business. There was a time in 2002 where I couldn't admit that I worked for an email company at a cocktail party because everyone was so angry about the spam in their inbox. And through a series of steps, both regulatory and just technology moving on, that spotlight moving to social networks and other places, it settled into a point now where people are at peace with their inboxes. They're there and it's not a top of mind, a top issue for most people.

So I hope we can get there in five or 10 years. But in the meantime, it's a work in progress. I think CCPA frankly, was the big change. And it was really this step up and CPRA is amplification and expansion, but we're on the path to make the changes that will be needed to adjust to it.

I think for a global company like us, we're looking at Brazil, we're looking at Thailand, we're anticipating having to adapt in other geographies the way that we have in the EU as well. So that's on our roadmap.

Timur Yarnall: Yeah, I think it's a fair statement. I think the email marketing analogy is a good one. I agree that we're going to get to some stability. There are clearly elements that want to with Netflix, the social dilemma coming out, there was a book at the beginning of the year called surveillance capitalism. And I think Johnny Ryan on the ICO that would like to really put a halt to any audience marketing.

And then there's others that want to pretend like none of this is happening and that we can continue to operate in the "wild west" and that this is all going to go away. And I think the truth, I agree, I think it's somewhere in the middle and we're going to find a good balance in that we can have ethical, transparent actors, take the lead. And I think that is both from the ecosystem and ultimately from consumer angles is what the bulk want.

Michael Gorman: I think that the efforts like the one that Neutronian has taken on of providing validation, providing a reference point for buyers and for the marketplace is on trend. And we're going to do more of it. We're happy to embrace your approach and you'll see some additional validation announcements from ShareThis in 2021. And I imagine if we're doing it, others are as well.

Timur Yarnall: Certainly. Yeah.

Michael Gorman: One thing I'll return to on my 2021 predictions, one thing we're very intrigued by and focused on, this emergence of data marketplaces. We were, like everybody else pretty impressed by the Snowflake IPO and the demonstration that there's a new way of doing what used to be done by a data warehouse. That data is being consolidated and really it's, if there's a trend we're seeing and we see a number, is the direct to consumer and digital transformation. Big companies are all moving to try to run their business in where basically the consumer experience is adapted as it's happening, and data is at the center of making that possible.

And so that's, what's really, I think driving the success of companies like Snowflake and frankly AWS and then the others to provide the ability to run businesses like dynamic data applications. And so, we're noting the growth of Snowflake and AWS as data marketplaces and we've started to make our data available there.

We all love AdTech but we believe our data has value that goes well beyond advertising and optimizing the consumer experience. I expect that's just the opening act in data really stepping out and becoming a huge and critical central industry in its own right.

Timur Yarnall: I think it's a great point. I think data is so critical all across the board and I think in some cases, AdTech, MarTech, it's harder to enter because of the lack of probably framework, but there's so many applications across that.

So this is great. Michael, thanks for your time. And obviously thanks to ShareThis for being a Neutronian partner and customer.

Give us just as we wrap up how can our buy-side partners find you and what's your best site or some case studies and your LinkedIn, et cetera, you can give us that's the best way to track you down.

Michael Gorman: Me personally?

Timur Yarnall: Yeah, you personally and the company.

Michael Gorman: ShareThis.com is there and available obviously and particularly for our new publishers find us there. I think, I'm certainly find-able on LinkedIn, Michael Gorman of ShareThis should turn me up. And [email protected] if you want to reach out. I'm always interested to connect with people who love data and who are looking to push the envelope of what we can do as an industry.

Timur Yarnall: Great. That's perfect. I'd feel the same way. So, thanks again for joining. We'll have I'm sure more partner announcements with ShareThis in the future, but this is great as we've announced our certification. Your team has been fantastic, and I think 2021, I hope it's less eventful in many ways. I'm sure it's going to be very eventful in terms of the evolution of the business and so I'm excited to see what happens and we'll check in with you as we move ahead. So, thank you again.

Michael Gorman: Thank you, it was great to talk to you Timur.

Closing: We hope you enjoyed this episode of the Neutronian Data Quality Podcast featuring Michael Gorman, SVP of Product, Business Development and Marketing at ShareThis. Thank you for listening and stay tuned for our next episode soon!

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