Last week, US mobile company Verizon said it is interested in purchasing some or all of Yahoo. With more than 112 million wireless subscribers, it is looking to add Yahoo’s more than 1 billion e- mail, finance, sports and video users to AOL’s 2 million users, in an attempt to secure a foothold in digital advertising against YouTube and Facebook.
Details and Implications
Verizon’s success or failure will depend on the size and accuracy of its identity graph – the volume of single user IDs that it can apply to the eyeballs across its properties. Facebook and Google have built strong identity graphs that are modeled on a large set of deterministic data (email address to log into an app on mobile or desktop) to enable them to identify Single Users across multiple devices. Verizon is sitting on an incredibly powerful deterministic set of data to rival, or even exceed, that of Facebook and Google in terms of richness - 112 M subscribers and their physical address, email, mobile number and home phone numbers (visibility on web browsing, interest data, mobile app usage) – that is an extraordinary amount of information they hold at a single ID level.
Though the details aren't clear, Verizon would be able to match its own data on individual consumers with identifiable data held by Yahoo and AOL, all of which likely will be hashed or encrypted in order to remove personally-identifiable information, but remain linked through anonymized IDs. Verizon’s deterministic data set is largely US based but it can drive scale in other markets by using the learnings from this set to validate probabilistic modeling. This will allow AOL and Yahoo to aim ads at what it believes to be the same person on the desktop, in mobile and via addressable television in the UK and further afield.
It is the data (identity graph) that is the differentiator in today’s digital advertising landscape. The ability to target and serve meaningful content at a single ID level is an incredibly compelling proposition for advertisers and is one they have come to expect with the likes of Facebook and Google. Verizon has used its privilege as an ISP to collect an incredibly powerful data set that it puts at the heart of its business. It is this data set that enables Verizon to buy and resurrect the likes of Yahoo and AOL.