If you listen carefully, know where to look and pay attention, it’s easy to see where your most interested and engaged readers are spending time on your website. What’s done with that information is up to each publisher or editor, but it should be obvious.
Sachin Kamdar, co-founder and CEO of the data analytics platform Parse.ly, says his company is “bringing everybody inside a media company — executives, journalists, analysts, across the board — we’re bringing them closer to their audience. The way we’re doing that is through data and analytics.”
When the journalism and media industries shifted to the digital world, in addition to the headaches and fears over converting print ad sales to digital ones, it provided nearly endless opportunity to get to know readers better.
“What you now have is an easy mechanism to understand your users,” he explains. “Data is the lens for you to understand your users. In the print days, all you had was circulation numbers, maybe letters to the editor, to get a sense of what resonated with readers. Now we can both look at what’s happening in real time on your site, see how people are engaging with your content, and also look at things historically.”
For some newsrooms, the first step to determining how best to address their readers is to define reader engagement. For a site like Buzzfeed, reader engagement levels are determined by how an article performs on social media; for a legacy newsroom like The New York Times the bar is set by subscriptions and loyalty. “Engagement depends on you, as a publisher or media company, and how you’re thinking about what is engaging to your users,” Kamdar says.
Media and publishing companies need to get savvier about their audience if they want to have a better relationship with them in terms of subscriptions, ad sales, etc., Kamdar says. The smartest and best prepared ones will use several approaches in tandem to reach their key audience where they live, so to speak.
“If you’re going to have an ad play, and a subscription play, and an event play, and maybe a sponsored content play and maybe an e-commerce play on top of that, you better be damned sure that you understand how to siphon off both your content and your audience in the right direction so you get the most value out of them” he says. That’s where data becomes really important, as is understanding that each “play” has different metrics to measure success.
“All of these metrics are important, all are aligned with different avenues of how you can make money from your audience, but the best publishers are going to be using all of them in tandem so they can squeeze as much value as they can out of the right audiences at the right time,” Kamdar says.
Which brings it back to knowing and understanding what your readers want and how they want it.
“If you’re not listening and if you’re not saying ‘I’ll give you more of this stuff,’ you’re doing yourself a disservice. What often happens in the industry is people think giving users what they want is some type of commoditization of the content they’re producing. I think that’s largely the result of the forced perspective on what gets shared the most, getting the most clicks in real time. What often gets ignored is other metrics just as or more important around loyalty engagement.”
On this week’s It’s All Journalism podcast, host Michael O’Connell interviews Sachin Kamdar, co-founder and CEO of the data analytics platform Parse.ly. They discuss how a better understanding of data analytics can help media outlets grow their audience, improve reader engagement and make more informed decisions about their editorial content.