How analytics can enhance your digital content strategy

As the catchphrase “digital transformation” is incorporated into every facet of businesses, the media industry undergoes a metamorphosis of its own. Users increasingly turn to digital platforms to consume content, and as such, digital spending is expected to account for 50% of overall media expenditure by 2019, according to a McKinsey study (pdf).

With consumers turning to online and mobile channels, media organisations realise that, apart from having quality, attention-grabbing content, more needs to be done to cut through the clutter in this saturated media landscape.

Evolving media channels

In recent years, an array of different media channels has developed. For the longest time, print media used to be one of the only news channels. However, the advent of online platforms has now granted access to content through various avenues, including search engines, social media, emails as well as news aggregation sites – and this list is not exhaustive. The definitions and boundaries of each category constantly change.

Social media used to primarily encompass sites like Facebook and Twitter, but now include Line, WeChat, Weibo, WhatsApp. and Instagram, arguably one of the most widely used platforms, which reported more than 500 million total users in June 2016.

As current affairs proceed in unpredictable, ever-dynamic fashions, news sites are pressured to deliver these developments to their respective audiences in as timely and efficient a manner as possible. With the nature of print media, even dailies can only offer news to readers once a day.

Online news sites are beginning to render this channel obsolete, offering readers real-time updates and convenient, constant access. Also, publishers are now able to gain real-time feedback on the performance of their online sites, and correspondingly provide a real-time response.

Create a data-driven newsroom

Analytics, one of the main pillars of the third platform technologies, has proven to be a popular solution for companies looking to optimise processes and achieve business objectives. However, many remain uncertain about engaging with analytics in a way that is most beneficial to their company.

Many companies use analytics tools to generate weekly and monthly reports, but are unable to make decisions in real-time situations. One primary reason is that majority of the market still uses free analytics tools, which impose tremendous limitations on timeliness and granularity of data.

Additionally, some media organisations may have a “one size fits all” mentality – such as adopting standardised editorial analytics – which may not completely fit their specific newsroom operations, and will not help them differentiate their offering to their target audiences.

In the context of media organisations, using real-time article performance data to drive content creation is key. This should be the responsibility of the editor – who might not possess the necessary technical analytics skill. Therefore, a digital analytics tool should speak the editor’s language, be visually intuitive, as well as provide action-oriented metrics customised to the needs of each newsroom.

Conversely, an analytics tool that requires the newsroom to reconfigure processes or adapt to use could prove counter-intuitive and too inconvenient for implementation. Should the situation arise where an in-house analytics tool cannot be deployed, tools allowing high levels of customisation should be selected, at the very least.

Optimise based on the environment

In running a digital business, optimisation is key – and this is no different for media publishers. Media companies can optimise processes in terms of operation as well as monetisation. It is important to note that media organisations should optimise strategies in accordance to their own requirements, rather than blindly follow a one-size-fits-all mindset.

For example, it’s a common belief that winning morning traffic is key for online media success, therefore a lot of media companies release their online articles in the morning to put them on good SEO standing. However, one of our clients found releasing articles at less competitive hours works better for their type of content, which is mostly lifestyle and entertainment. Astute publishers tap into analytics tools to adequately extract insights from their own data and derive the best media strategy for their own readers.

Rethink your monetisation strategy

In a startling statistic from the Newspaper Association of America, we can see a clear indication of the need to alter monetisation strategies: Within just 12 years (2000 – 2012), American print media collectively lost the revenue it had built up in a half century. The last thirds revealed the most drastic drop in revenue, with a combined total of more than 50%, showing traditional monetisation methods (including print platforms) are in decline.

In light of these changes, monetisation should shift from indiscriminate mass advertising to a more personalised form of marketing – and the media industry already appears to be heading in that direction, with a growing emphasis on online channels.

In additional to advertising, publishers in our region should not overlook online subscription as an alternative revenue opportunity. With quality content, publishers in America and Europe started to see the potential of online subscription.

In Singapore, a well-known publisher recently tested a paid subscription service which was implemented once users reached the free limit of browsing 30 articles in a month. With digital analytics, the publisher could understand an individual’s reading pattern, and then use this information to set up the paywall in a way that would create minimal impact on the overall online experience.