Different professionals have different approaches to editorial analytics and how they integrate them into their workflow. Audience editors, analysts, and insights managers are usually people who dig deeper for patterns and insights, and they are often perceived to be the most skilled users of analytics software. The truth is though, these experts are not the only people who nurture a data-informed approach to editorial decision making, and nor should they be.
Content Insights is the editorial package intended to be used by skilled professionals but also by people whose main tasks don’t involve tackling analytics on a day-to-day basis, such as editors and journalists. People who are mainly into reporting or editing can get a different set of values from editorial intelligence tools than individuals who are advanced users of such software.
We talked with Emma Löfgren, the editor of The Local Sweden to get a sense of how online news editors do their analytical work, and above all, how important editorial analytics are for them. Emma was kind enough to explain to us how Content Insights fits into the workflow of a person whose main job is to ensure the quality of the output of a particular news site.
Our timing to talk to Emma was perfect. The Local Sweden reported that October was a record month for them, during which time they reported more than 1,7 million unique visitors. In November they were named Sweden’s best digital publisher of the year. If that wasn’t enough their in-house Client Studio won the third prize at the Native Advertising awards 2018.
We’ve talked a lot to them recently. In just a couple of months, we have managed to get different user perspectives from their Managing Editor Paul O’Mahony, and Shaena Harrison, their manager of strategic commercial partnerships. They explained to us what kind of values they believe different specialists can get from our unique editorial intelligence solution.
What is The Local?
The Local is a unique media brand: a news organization that reports on nine websites in nine European countries. The Swedish edition of The Local is the oldest, and at present has the biggest audience.
Across all titles, there’s a common mission. The Local’s remit is to provide expats with information about their adopted countries. Their core audience across all of their websites are expats: foreigners working away from home and people trying to make sense of life in their new countries. This demographic form the most sizeable portion of their readership, but they also attract readers from other countries who have an interest in English-language updates about specific countries.
This particular way of operating requires a different approach to reporting than many other mainstream news organizations have. Among other stuff they do differently, Emma explains that in some cases they have to write stories with more context for their followers on each of their domains.
Getting subscriptions to work
The Local is an organization whose revenue structure is increasingly based on membership with a few of their websites operating on the reader revenue model. They started charging for news in Sweden a year ago and found themselves in unfamiliar territory as a result because this change in the business model means that they needed to quickly shift their focus from striving for the highest possible exposure of their content to creating content that will generate loyal behavior among their users.
With that in mind, people at The Local changed the way they perceive editorial intelligence software, and the data they see crucial for evaluating the success of their work. With more insights about their audience behavior, they’ve managed to strike gold.
In a single year, 7,000 readers became members. The Local Europe managing editor Paul O’Mahony said in a recent article that this came as a massive relief for them, being as they are a small independent news organization surrounded by giants in a turbulent media landscape.
“We asked you what you would like to see more of, we dedicated more resources to our journalism, we held our breath and… you started joining.”
Let’s now see how Content Insights helped The Local in this transition from an editor’s point of view.
Attracting new and retaining old members
For starters, we asked Emma what Content Insights metrics she looks at the most.
She said: “Loyalty and Engagement.”
“We know those metrics are important to us in terms of getting new members and retaining the old ones.”
When we asked Emma to describe what kind of a reader they consider to be a “loyal reader” (very much the million dollar question right now in the industry), she said it is a person who keeps returning to the site – “someone who actually comes to our page and read[s] articles” rather than someone who just happened to click on a link leading to a funny article: loyal readers decisively choose The Local and return to it regularly as a source of information.
Focusing on articles
When she wants to get a rough idea about which articles performed well in the previous week or month, Emma’s first port of call is usually on insights from the Articles section and she examines the performance of their content at this level.
After that, she looks at the Loyalty tab which is a part of the Behavior menu.
“I’m looking for articles that performed well on Loyalty because we believe that those articles are likely to get us new members and help retain old ones. I also look at Engagement, just to see how readers are engaging with the article.“
She also uses the Article insights facility to find underperforming content, and in those cases, Emma usually uses these insights to make changes to the headlines of those articles, something which she says is often sufficient to rectify the issues.
Content Insights also helps Emma single out premium content. She – like us – understands that articles that score higher on Loyalty and Engagement tend to be good candidates to become premium content.
Sometimes she uses the same tactics retroactively, which means that she looks at the old content and finds pieces that performed well according to the same criteria and can be revamped to target Members.
“I would also use it for guiding future strategies.”
Things can get tricky from this point because The Local Sweden operates both on a metered paywall, and on a hard paywall, which sits between readers and premium content. Premium content is only for members. While premium content sits strictly behind a paywall, Emma says that a small number of articles remain completely off the paywall.
Stories available to all readers are usually the most important ones, for example, breaking news and, like many other news publications, The Local believe it’s important to keep this kind of content accessible to all.
Pinpointing valuable content
Emma said that the best-performing articles are the ones that are very relatable to their readers’ lives and circumstances. Given that their readers are generally united by the fact they’re expats, navigating a new life in a new country, successful stories are the ones which help resolve those issues. Practical how-tos about life in Sweden, for example, how to obtain a resident’s permit, explainer articles about the way the school system functions or a back-to-basics political primer all do well because they serve a real need.
The Local Sweden have columnists whose pieces perform well, but they have reader-generated content as well, and Emma said that if user articles are highly relatable to readers, they also have high CPI scores: what makes an article successful is as much to do with its subject matter, as it is with whose byline it features.
“Actually, Content Insights proved to us that the articles which we believe are valuable to readers are the ones that are actually valuable to readers.”
What is CPI?
CPI (Content Performance Indicator) is the heart and soul of Content Insights. It’s an algorithm that shows how well your content is performing in comparison to other published articles on your
platform. It also provides insights for Sections, Topics, Authors, and also a whole website.
CPI takes into consideration dozens of different content performance metrics and examines their relations. It also weighs them differently in accordance with three recognized behavioral models: exposure, engagement, and loyalty.
CPI is always a number between 1 and 1000. When CPI is over 500 that means the article, section, the author performs better than the average.
Digging for social gold
Emma tries to look at Content Insights on a daily basis. She also regularly checks it on Friday when she goes on a special pursuit for the week’s best-performing articles that can be republished on social media over the weekend when they usually publish less new content.
“I use Content Insights a lot to see what articles have performed well in the past month. Those are the ones to be reshared.”
Loyalty and Engagement scores are once again crucial in determining what has performed well.
Emma also looks at the Longtail section, because it highlights great older articles that can be reshared at a specific time of year:
“We’ve got loads of old evergreen content that kind of disappears on the website, but it’s still relevant to our readers, for example, an article about best shopping spots in Stockholm.”
How do we explain Engagement and Loyalty?
Our Content Performance Indicator (CPI) is made of three CPIs, one for Exposure, Engagement, and Loyalty.
CPI Engagement unveiled which content is connecting well with your audience, and which generates the most interest from your readers. It measures how efficient articles are at influencing readers to stay engaged with the content, both within the article, but also more broadly across the domain.
CPI Loyalty measures how good content is at attracting highly-engaged, returning readers. This behavioral model looks at how articles are contributing to the overall loyalty of your reader base on the website.
Choosing the metrics that work
So, what have we learned from Emma’s experience?
Basically, once again it has been made clear that editors or any other audience specialists who work for media outlets operating on the reader revenue model are not interested in scores of single metrics when evaluating their content’s performance.
They don’t look at page views, attention time, or social shares. They look for a different set of insights, more in-depth ones. Our editor, Em Kuntze, summed up this matter nicely in her recent talk to journalism.co.uk.
“It doesn’t matter how many times an article has been read but how readers engaged with it and how loyal they are to your brand, especially if your content is paid-for”.
This might sound a bit complicated, but as we’ve seen, there are simple ways to measure engagement and loyalty. The truth is, that can’t be done by looking at simple metrics such as pageview or bounce rate. Simply enough, they are showing us browser event, and not audience behavior. That’s we’re witnessing a shift in a way professionals evaluate content performance.
Audience-centric media outlets don’t want to look at vanity metrics. They want insights about behavior, and they use it to guide content strategies.
This data-informed approach lets them know more than just how a certain piece of content performed. As we’ve seen, they can be used for future planning or making the most of your social media potential. Also, this type of analytics can be used retroactively to help generate revenue from old successful content.
If you think that our content intelligence solution could be helpful for your organization, please get in touch with us.