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Content Analytics for Publishers

The Publisher’s Guide to Content Analytics

How to use content analytics to grow your audience, boost revenue, and make your website more valuable to readers.

Terms like news value and editorial judgment get tossed around newsrooms each day, but increasingly, the real decisions at media publications are being made based on content analytics.

Content analytics platforms, like Google Analytics, Chartbeat, Parse.ly, and others, are providing publishers with the data they need to make smarter editorial and business decisions. Like what, you might ask?

Using content analytics platforms, digital publishers are determining which writers are generating the most page views, which topics are of the most interest to readers, and which stories are doing best on social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter.

To better understand how digital publishers are using content analytics to inform their editorial strategies and refine their business practices right now, we put together this guide to content analytics for digital publishers.

How to Use Content Analytics – Top Strategies for Success

Strategy #1: Conduct internal benchmarking by audience.

Older readers react differently to content than younger readers, and engaged audiences care more about certain topics than drive-by website visitors. Digital publishers who are interested in reaching certain target demographics can use content analytics to pinpoint what those audiences are most interested in and then push that content to the max. This doesn’t just have to do with general article topics, either. Once they’ve targeted the demographic they’re trying to reach, publishes can hone in on the specific authors and types of content (videos, articles, podcasts, etc.) that certain readers are most likely to engage with.

Bringing targeted audiences back to the website isn’t just about creating more engaged readers. It’s also about demonstrating to advertisers the value that the publication provides and its ability to reach the audiences that advertisers are interested in selling to.

With content analytics, publishers can dig deep into the interests of certain audiences and then continue working to beat their personal bests, in terms of page views and engagement levels.

Strategy #2: Put conversions at the top.

Page views and average session duration are important metrics for digital publishers; there’s no doubt. But the most advanced content analytics platforms give publishers a way to associate conversions with content, as well. How effective was a native advertising campaign or a sponsored article at driving people to the advertiser’s website or the product being sold? With native app integrations, publishers can compare engagement and loyalty metrics for both native and web audiences. They can also evaluate the success of advertiser campaigns over a certain period of time, comparing total engaged minutes to page views and average engaged time for any number of websites or articles.

Strategy #3: Grouping websites together for comparison.

As the digital publishing ecosystem evolves, consolidation is occurring. It’s not uncommon now for local publishers to have not just one, but dozens—if not hundreds—of local news websites under their umbrellas.

Publishers who fit this description can use content analytics platforms to see how stories, writers, and referrers are performing across their entire network of websites. They can also compare metrics between websites in a network, or just in certain verticals. This strategy is particularly helpful as publishers look to measure the performance of smaller websites in their portfolios.

And what about publishers who don’t own a dozen or more online properties? Consolidation using content analytics can help them, too. These same techniques can be used by publishers as they compare traffic in certain sections of their websites. For example, how are the articles in the Sports section performing relative to the articles in the Arts & Entertainment section of a news website?

Strategy #4: Maintaining an analytics-informed approach, versus analytics-driven.

Publishers who focus too singularly on page views and website traffic are missing the point of content analytics. In an editorial setting, analytics let publishers know how different segments of their audience are interacting with articles and other website content.

The distinction here has to do with audience segment versus audience size. Experienced publishers know that there is more to growing a digital news publication than just attracting the greatest number of eyeballs. Publishers who want to reach out to certain segments of their audiences—for example, the most dedicated and engaged readers—will sometimes run stories that are of interest to those readers specifically, even if the public at large could care less. With the right content analytics platform in place, publishers can make sure their targeted content is reaching the right people and having the desired effect.

Have you tried using content analytics? If you’re not sure how to integrate this type of platform into your website, then now is the time to change that. We can help with everything you need to increase conversions and establish new revenue channels as a digital publisher.

Metrics to Achieve Long-Term Revenue Growth

This Retail Metric Is Helping Publishers Achieve Long-Term Revenue Growth

Online retailers have been using the customer lifetime value metric to gauge the success of their retention strategies for years. Now, savvy digital publishers are getting on board with the same technique as they search for new ways to achieve long-term revenue growth.

The customer lifetime value (LTV) metric is a new one for many in the digital publishing industry. The metric is designed to measure the value of a customer to a business over the course of the relationship.

Rather than looking at customer interactions and purchases in a silo, ecommerce retailers figured out years ago that they would be able to see a more complete picture, and more easily achieve long-term revenue growth, if they looked at the value of a customer over the complete course of that customer’s relationship with the company.

Tracking the LTV of customers often results in retailers paying more attention to customers who buy a few items a month over a long period of time than customers who purchase just one item and then never return to the retailer’s online store. In the long run, businesses generate the most revenue from loyal customers who incrementally spend money over a period of years.

What does the LTV metric have to do with digital publishers looking to achieve long-term revenue growth?

As more publishers adjust their business strategies to include subscriptions and memberships programs, interest in tracking the long-term value of individual readers has grown.

A publication’s most loyal readers are also its most valuable. The longer that relationship continues, the less costly it becomes to serve that reader. Over time, loyal readers can also bring in new subscribers via referrals and social media “shares,” increasing the lifetime value that much more.

The push toward using LTV as a metric comes as publishers place less and less importance on page views. Page views were once thought to be one of the most important metrics for a publisher to track. But really, all a page view tells a publisher is how many people clicked on a particular article. A page view doesn’t offer any insights into how many people actually read the article, or where they came from, or whether they decided to subscribe after viewing a particular piece of content.

How Publishers Calculate LTV

How a publisher calculates the LTV metric depends on which channels or strategies he is using to achieve long-term revenue growth. The mix of subscriptions, memberships, types of advertising, and product sales (for example, selling images, videos, branded swag, or tickets to live events) will influence which key metrics make up the LTV.

In general terms, we like to see publishers combine the eCPM of each page type with the number of pages per visit, the amount of time spent on each page, and the number of repeat visits. When combined, these metrics should paint a clear picture of the true value of each visitor, giving publishers a way to identify which topics, themes, and features are bringing readers back and causing them to subscribe.

The New York Times employs an entire data team dedicated to understanding what makes casual readers decide to subscribe, and why long-time readers decide to cancel their subscriptions. The team looks at the behaviors leading up to conversions (when readers decide to subscribe). They have found that frequency breadth and depth are good signals that can predict when a reader will subscribe, helping the media organization achieve long-term revenue growth.

Knowing that the more frequently a visitor comes to the NYTimes.com website the more likely he is to subscribe, the publisher has boosted its tactics for bringing casual readers back for more. One of the ways The New York Times does this is through email newsletters, which the publisher has found to be a highly successful in converting casual readers into subscribers.

A decrease in website visits and engagement can also be viewed as a warning sign that a reader is about the cancel his subscription. For example, someone who used to read seven articles a week and now reads just one or two is at a high risk of cancelling.

If you’d like to learn even more about how to convert readers into subscribers to achieve long-term revenue growth for your publication, then let’s chat.

audience engagement metrics

What Matters More, Audience Engagement or Page Views?

At this point, most digital publishers understand the importance of web analytics. While page views will always have a role here, audience engagement is taking the lead for publishers interested in measuring the success of their editorial content.

A decade ago, it was expected that publishers would look at page views and unique visitors as they evaluated the success of certain articles or sections on their websites. Most publishers were under the assumption that the more page views an article amassed, the better the article was. Visitors who enjoyed an article would have a reason to stick around the website, either clicking through other pages or returning the next day to see if more content had been posted about the same topic.

To a certain extent, publishers’ initial focus on page views makes sense. In addition to promoting loyalty, page views were also an indication of how much display advertising revenue the publication could expect to bring in.

In the years since news publications moved online, however, there’s been an industry-wide shift away from looking at page views as a key performance indicator.

For starters, page views alone are not enough to indicate whether a visitor enjoyed a particular article, or whether the reader even finished the article in its entirety. Page view metrics also do a poor job of measuring what kind of opinion readers have of the publication overall and whether they plan on returning in the future or becoming paying subscribers. These are just a few of the reasons why, as an industry, news publishers have transitioned away from page views and started looking more closely at audience engagement metrics.

Audience Engagement Metrics

Audience engagement has become increasingly important for publishers who want to boost their CPMs for display advertising revenue and convert first-time readers into paying subscribers.

Whereas page views measure the specific number of visitors clicking on a website, audience engagement metrics are much broader in scope. When most people talk about audience engagement, they’re talking about the extent to which visitors are interested in or involved in the content on a website. Shares, comments, time on the website, and offline impact can all represent audience engagement. Many publishers combine two or more of these metrics—for example, shares and comments—to determine audience engagement.

What publishers are discovering by tracking audience engagement is that audiences enjoy reading articles about certain topics more than others, and that certain kinds of stories do a better job of converting first-time readers into paying subscribers. Tracking audience engagement gives publishers a way to hone in on these topics.

For publishers who frequently post video, video completion rates are almost always a part of the equation here. Knowing the number of people who clicked on a webpage with a video (page views) is less useful than knowing the number of visitors who watched the video in its entirety. Knowing the engagement metrics for their video content, publishers should have a clearer understanding of how the length of content impacts completion rates. They can also compare completion rates for videos posted on different platforms and users on different devices.

Paywalls can make it harder to track the impact of page views, as well, since articles behind a paywall will always generate fewer page views, even if engagement with those articles is much higher. This is one of the reasons why many digital publishers stop using page view growth as a key performance indicator after putting up metered paywalls.

Analytics platforms today can get incredibly granular in the way they track audience engagement metrics, segmenting users by loyalty and demographics. A few questions that publishers can answer by looking at their audience engagement metrics are:

  • Do readers coming from Facebook stay longer than readers coming from Twitter?
  • How long does the average reader from Google stay on the site before leaving?
  • Are readers living in certain areas staying on the website for longer?

Publishers aren’t the only ones interested in audience engagement metrics. Advertisers are interested in the information, as well.

Page views and impressions can only tell an advertiser so much. For a clearer picture of what they’re buying, advertisers will often ask for audience engagement metrics. Advertisers want to know that readers are engaging with the content on a publisher’s website and that the display ads they purchase will result in clicks and sales. In this way, tracking audience engagement metrics makes publications more attractive to potential advertisers, upping the CPM rates that publishers can charge.