The strain on the news industry has been harshly felt in the local press, and barely a week passes without reports of yet another regional publisher closing its doors. However, as we’ve been finding out on our blog this week, it’s not all doom and gloom.
In the UK, Archant – a privately owned media company with over 140 brands and associated websites – is embracing the digital challenge. As they’ve recently started using Content Insights, we sent our blog writer, Em Kuntze, to have a chat with Nick Cameron, Archant’s Digital Analytics Manager, about analytics, the regional press and how they’ve been getting on with the CI tool itself.
So, Nick. What’s the state of play at Archant, particularly with your four daily titles?
Well, we’ve got quite a large audience digitally. We had around 30 million page views last month on the EDP [Eastern Daily Press, a regional daily newspaper] to an audience of 8.2 million.
We have a new Content Officer and Content Director, both of whom came from Trinity Mirror and are bringing a fresh perspective to the digital product. While we’re trying hard to carve out a different digital identity, it is tricky because we still have to be very careful of print.
What have been the issues with editorial analytics up until now at Archant?
Simply put: complexity and there not being a tangible benefit for the journalists to login and do it themselves.
Historically, everyone was given daily reports – automated from Omniture – which told us things like how many page views a certain article got. But that was really the extent of it. The monthly report was also rather static, very un-engaging and pretty uninspiring, but we’re now migrating away from that to more interactive dashboards where people can actually see and answer questions themselves. We also launched a new real-time analytics platform recently across the group called Linkpulse, which I’m currently giving training for in-house.
What do you use real-time for?
It’s a really useful way of showing us, in a really simple interface, what our users are doing on our sites at any given moment. We’re able to see the number of users currently on the site, which pages they’re looking at and when there’s a big spike in social for a particular story, which would help indicate that we might need to write a follow-up article or include additional links within it or update it for the social audience.
You mentioned people having daily reports of how articles have been performing. To what extent was that data was available? Who has access to the editorial analytics now?
All the journalists have got access to everything really, and we’ve always been reasonably democratic in that regard. But, as I said, it’s the ‘what’ that’s changed. Now everyone has access to real time analytics, interactive monthly reports and – soon – Content Insights, which is both easier to use and gives more comprehensive information to our journalists.
The ongoing issue has been that a lot of people still have a print mindset, not helped by the fact that historically the analytics which were available weren’t particularly relevant or easy to use.
We’re hoping that with the introduction of tools which are much more intuitive we’ll be able to convince people that it’s a beneficial thing to do, rather than being a hindrance or a time-waster.
Why do you think people were nervous or skeptical about the use of these kind of tools before?
There’s been a historical mindset that the great indicator of success is having the front page spread. Page views are hard to contextualize if that sort of thing has long been your goal, and it’s easy to see why. Saying that your story got 30,000 page views doesn’t mean as much as saying it got printed on page three. That’s something even people out of the industry can appreciate as having a certain cache.
Do you think there is a digital equivalent of appearing above the fold, then?
A lot of it is different from person to person, and it’s about looking to their internal motivation – the reason they’ve become a journalist. In watching how their stories are spreading far and wide [they’ll see that] a decent story can reach a lot further with digital than it can with print, because there are a lot more people online.
Surely where the regional press comes into its own is in its ability to report on stories which directly affect people’s lives, and to that extent don’t you need to be led by your audience?
I think that’s a very important part of it, yes. As you say, it’s about giving the audience content which makes a difference to their lives and there’s great potential for this to happen in the regional press because you can respond to local events and connect with the readership in a very meaningful and direct way. We do really well in Great Yarmouth [a large coastal UK town] because we’ve got an editor there who’s incredibly switched on, knows the area and the issues and – most importantly – dedicates part of her day to sitting down on Facebook to respond and engage with our readers there.
Back again to Content Insights, if I may. When did you pick up the tool?
Our Chief Content Officer introduced us to the tool and the Digital Content Director, Digital Editor and I have been working on it since. We trialled it with the EDP and for us it’s the interface that stands out. It’s just so easy to use.
Prior to Content Insights we were unable to track the number of articles our journalists were writing, so we had no idea if that number was up or down on a week-to-week basis. Omniture doesn’t measure a traffic drop against how many articles have been written in the same period, so we might find out that we’d had a 10% drop in traffic, but we wouldn’t know that the number of articles published was down 20%. If we had that kind of information we’d be able to surmise that if we’d just published more, chances are we’d have had more site visits also. So basic and so fundamentally important.
What other parts have you found useful?
The site sections part has been incredibly interesting. Looking at the efficacy of our content rather than the content that shouts the loudest. We’ve got content areas where we devote a lot of resource, so by the law of averages it seems like those site sections should perform well for us, but if we look at how well it performs per article written then some of these will be an inefficient use of our time, so this will go into the wider content strategy.
The ‘What’s On’ section is just that at present: it isn’t performing the way it could, and now we know that we can either make it better or put fewer resources to it. We’ve decided on the former because it’s pretty obvious that if you’re a local media organization and you want people to treat you as their one, single source of all local news, events and listings are among the top things people want to know about.
That’s the editorial hand, though isn’t it? Balancing the insights from an editorial analytics package with an actual human saying, “no, we actually need this”…
What are the chief differences between using Omniture and Content Insights?
Well, they do very different things. Omniture allows us to go into incredible depth because it’s a giant platform, but it requires a data analyst to do it, so it’s not really useful for a journalist to login and quickly see, other than reverting back to this typical page-views result. So, aside from the people who are incredibly engaged, I think that’s partly why people haven’t been really using Omniture. CI by contrast is a much more useful tool for our editors and journalists: we’re enjoying the process of finding out where we are and what changes we can make next.