Future of publishing

By Conrad Bennet

Consumption of media has been dramatically changed by the digital revolution and publishers are now developing mobile, online and app strategies to target readers and disseminate news. However, understanding and measuring what readers want on these channels and how to tap into new audiences is the challenge that publishers are facing. Conrad Bennett, VP of Technical Services EMEA at Webtrends, explains how analytics can help publishers engage and target readers in this multi-channel environment…

Publishers are all too aware of the need to present and offer their services via a multitude of channels. The Association of Online Publishers’ (AOP) annual census of UK members recently found that mobile development and eCommerce are key priorities for publishing businesses in 2012 .

The temptation, however, can be to launch into an online, mobile or social strategy without asking a few fundamental questions: Is this right for my readers? Will my readers use these services? Will we secure the advertising investment we need to fund these channels?

To be able to answer these questions, publishers need a vital component – data on their readers. They need to truly understand what their readers are looking for and how these requirements can differ depending on the channel the reader is using to consume the information.

Mobile and social measurement are still relatively new spaces, and the use of analytics is still largely unsophisticated. Many organisations rely on free software that typically provides basic information such as data on popular search terms, but offers little in the way of in-depth unified analytics across multiple digital channels. This use of free software highlights an awareness of the need to analyse and extract data, but little understanding of the best methods to use. Interestingly the AOP also found commercial data analysis was a priority for publishers this year.

Publishers therefore need to consider a measurement strategy for mobile, online and apps and what methods they will use to obtain the data they require. The Telegraph provides one such example of the role measurement plays in a mobile strategy and, as a consequence, the value that analytics delivers as a method of obtaining important data.

Before the implementation of its mobile proposition, The Telegraph identified its primary business challenges as commercialising mobile publications and reaching younger readers. Specifically it was looking to offer better ways of interacting with the news, and in addition it wanted to monetise its mobile channel through advertising.

The Telegraph kicked off its mobile strategy with the launch of a free app to measure initial user activity. During this trial period it found readers wanted curated news and important stories that were easy to view on the iPad. It also found iPad usage complemented consumption of other media with the app driving loyalty and retention as the number of returning readers continually grew. The Telegraph was able to improve readers’ experience by observing how readers navigated the iPad and applying any necessary changes.

Webtrends Analytics was invaluable in giving The Telegraph the data it needed to understand the differences in behaviour of readers using this app. This information formed the basis of the creation of the paid-for app. The Telegraph was able to justify the investment into this app as it had the proof points of what its readers demanded and also knew that willingness existed among its readers to pay for this content.

The intention of the paid-for app was to increase the mass and volume of Telegraph readers and develop greater engagement. Webtrends Analytics was used to measure several key metrics, including page views, number of visits, the time of day that readers used the app, the app version and most-read stories. The Telegraph was then able to play around with the types of content that worked best for the iPad and also for readers who would be willing to pay for the experience by subscribing to the app. This data was used to inform changes made to the app and to adapt the offering to complement the demands of advertisers without impacting readers’ preferences.

The third stage of The Telegraph’s mobile strategy, currently being rolled out in 2012, is to show advertisers the value that can be gained through tablet advertising and investment. Without robust data extracted from analytics tools, The Telegraph might have been in a weaker position to command the same level of revenue out of advertisers for sponsorship of the app. Whilst its readers might be paying a fee for subscription to the app, this amount, particularly in the early stages where the subscriber numbers are lower, will be nominal. The revenue a publisher of this size needs is typically sourced from advertising investment.

What The Telegraph has learnt, and a lesson that can be applied to other publishers, is that measurement is critical to the success of any mobile, online or social strategy. Understanding reader behaviour goes beyond simply the numbers of clicks or downloads of your app. Behaviour within these various channels can be measured in multiple ways, for example: web performance by visits; page views; click-through and duration of visits; social platform success through “Likes”, posts, comments, sponsored stories, retweets; mobile downloads, mobile site usage or QR code usage.

Strategies for the different digital channels should be closely aligned with business goals. Cross-channel analytics can provide the necessary data needed through sophisticated measurement to evaluate whether these goals have been met. The Telegraph is one of a number of publishers looking to understand what engages their readers and what drives advertising sales as publishing advances with the digital age. Knowing what and how to measure each channel can set the stage for continual improvement, customer engagement, conversion and ultimately revenue.

This information is not static and it is an ongoing process of understanding behaviour which can help drive conversions and revenue. It is not based on guesswork or opinion, but on solid data around actual visitor activity, preference and behaviour. Without advanced analytics, publishers risk blindly making decisions on what readers want and consequently may be unable to provide tangible ROI data for key revenue generators such as advertisers.

About the author

Conrad Bennett is VP of Technical Services, EMEA at Webtrends. With over 10 years’ experience in the Web Analytics industry you might be tempted to call him a guru, but since he goes by @toomanygurus on Twitter, please don’t. His team is responsible for all pre-sales and professional support across EMEA and Australia. Prior to joining Webtrends, he worked for a number of BI vendors such as Cognos and Hyperion, and has spent the majority of his career helping companies turn data into information. Previous to that he worked for United Biscuits, and now spends most of his time talking about cookies. Outside of work, most of his time is taken up with his ensuring his two sons are brought up in the right footballing religion despite living deep in Manchester United territory (Surrey), motorbikes and snowboarding.

About the company

Webtrends powers digital marketing success. Webtrends is at the forefront of real-time digital marketing relevance and customer experience management through unified customer intelligence. Webtrends’ industry-leading analytics across mobile, social and web enables marketers to optimise campaigns, maximise customer lifetime value and deliver highly relevant digital brand experiences in real time.

Web: www.webtrends.com

Twitter: @webtrends

Facebook: www.facebook.com/webtrends

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