Just What Is a Walled Garden Anyway?

 In Analytics Landscape, Behavioral Analysis, Walled Gardens

Here at Jumpshot we use “walled garden” almost as often as consultants use “synergy.” Unlike others who use the term to indicate a closed consumer platform or ecosystem, we use it in relation to data that marketers and advertisers use to plan and justify their activities. So we decided to dig into thinking about what a walled garden is today, to whom and, more importantly, why it matters to you.

A “walled garden” means different things to different people, but it ultimately boils down to two things; access to information and control. There’s something that people want and their access is restricted to that something. In the real world, this might be a road with a toll or a courthouse with a metal detector. In the digital world, “walled garden” indicates restricted access to information, users, or content.

A Brief History of Electronic Walls

In the early days of the internet, AOL restricted access to its content by requiring users to log on. At its peak, 40% of the time that all Americans spent online was spent within AOL’s walled garden content domain. But the phrase has been around much longer. A Google n-gram of the term charts a steady increase in the use of the phrase since 1970. Why? Likely because businesses have found value in gating information and access.

The Apple app store, for example, is a popular walled garden. Beyond setting a methodology of app design, Apple also gates and rates the content of the apps that appear in the store. The darkest predictions about net neutrality forecast a different type of walled garden, in which the content of the internet is subject to the price or speed controls of ISPs.

What Do we Mean

At Jumpshot, we use the term slightly differently. We’re not so much focused on how users themselves are confined. Rather, we’re interested in how marketers and advertisers can understand that behavior, whether it occurs in open or walled gardens. So for us at Jumpshot, it’s not the consumers that are kept in the walled garden, it’s the data about their behavior that is kept in the walled garden. And we find ways to see past the walls to get a holistic view of this behavior.

The value of understanding how users are behaving comes in understanding how a business can provide value and influence decisions. While companies or ad networks have extensive data on what happens in their own walled garden, many are blind to what happens once a visitor leaves their website. So at Jumpshot, we attempt to help marketers and advertisers see outside of their walled gardens to better understand, say, the full effect of digital marketing campaigns on purchase.

So What?

This becomes increasingly important as data shows that even when a user is presented with a brand advertisement, 54% will go to their preferred marketplace, like Amazon, to ultimately make their purchase. Without looking outside your own garden walls, your ad would not be attributed to that purchase, which could result in under-funding a tactic that actually works very well.

Amazon’s dominance as a retailer makes jumping the walled garden critical for brands. Their user data is behind its own walled garden, which has allowed them to launch its own advertising platform to generate revenue on the valuable data on consumer behavior. Of course everyone, from Facebook to Hulu and Bestbuy.com, does the same thing.

And that’s why Jumpshot is dedicated to connecting behavior within these walled gardens. Helping brands and advertisers better understand what people do online will help them influence that behavior and respond, regardless of which garden they are in.


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