Content Analytics Shouldn’t Be Scary: A Letter to Journalists
Since joining Parse.ly in 2011, I’ve heard tons of stories from journalists, audience developers, analysts, marketers, and product teams about how data insights have helped them succeed in their roles. Oh, there’s still the occasional “I’m not a fan of having a real-time report card on my work” sentiment. But it does prompt the question, “What is analytics really meant to do for an organization like mine?”
Performance data shouldn’t be scary, and it certainly shouldn’t be used punitively. The best uses of our platform that we’ve observed over the years have been where data inspires questions and experiments from unexpected places.
The best results we’ve seen are communities and customers that are more informed and satisfied. It’s the pursuit of these results that ultimately drives the ideal long-term “performance” for the business.
So, let’s bust the myth that analytics is simply a report card, because that’s not how our most successful customers use our platform. Beyond a few surface-level anecdotes, I want to provide an in-depth look at a few real-life examples of how our media customers use Parse.ly to improve their performance and prove their value.
- Example 1: Proactive promotion
- Example 2: Pivoting content topics
- Example 3: Making the case for more resources
- Example 4: Saving time
- Example 5: Proving your value
Note: Each customer story has been anonymized to protect the identity of the person. Any accompanying quotes and case studies are not associated with that customer and are simply provided to highlight the example.
Example 1: Samantha self-promotes stories
Samantha had been working on her latest investigative piece for weeks, following leads, digging through records, and conducting interviews. Finally, after a month of hard work, she had a story she was proud of. She submitted it to her editor, who gave it the green light for publishing.
Samantha was excited. This story was important to her community, and she knew it would make a big impact. She eagerly awaited its publication, confident that it would be a big hit.
But when the story was published, it didn’t get the response Samantha expected. She logged in to Parse.ly and looked at the data for her story. It confirmed her worst fears. The story barely had any readers.
The engaged time was high and people were leaving comments, but pageviews were low and the social media shares were minimal, so it wasn’t gaining any traction. Samantha was crushed. How could her important story be ignored like this? She had to do something to enhance the weak distribution efforts.
So Samantha took to Twitter and wrote a long thread about her story. She explained why it was important and how much effort she had put into it. She asked her followers to read it and share it with others. To her surprise, her colleagues and many others took note of her tweets and started sharing the story in newsletters, on the home page, and on social media. It soon became a top story.
Thanks to Parse.ly, Samantha learned that her story wasn’t getting the attention it deserved. And thanks to social media and the support of her colleagues, the story ultimately reached the audience it deserved. The community was better informed, and Samantha learned the value of using analytics to track her work and make adjustments when necessary.
Parse.ly is an incredible tool for democratizing data. Its intuitive nature helps the creative teams internalize the data and begin making more data-driven decisions without the need for constant support from an analytics team.Dan Stubbs (VP of Analytics, A&E Networks)
Example 2: Jake pivots his content
As a sports journalist, Jake loved nothing more than attending every minor league baseball game in his hometown. He would diligently take notes, capture quotes from players, and write detailed game wraps. But despite all his hard work, his stories just weren’t resonating with readers. They weren’t getting many shares and readers weren’t engaging with the pieces for very long.
With the help of Parse.ly, Jake discerned that readers were disappointed by the format and content of the stories. Yes, the posts had lots of visitors, but engaged time was low. Readers wanted something more unique, something that they couldn’t get from simply reading the game stats.
So Jake decided to pivot his approach. Instead of simply writing game wraps, he spent more time at the stadium talking with fans and the team. He began writing feature articles about the players, upcoming opponents, and the dedicated fans who came to every game. And to his delight, this new approach was much more interesting for both him and the community.
Jake’s new feature articles received more engagement than ever before. Readers loved the unique insight into the players and the behind-the-scenes action at the stadium. And Jake loved writing about something that he was passionate about.
Thanks to Parse.ly, Jake learned areas where his work could be improved, and he made the necessary changes to create more compelling content. In the end, not only did Jake enjoy his work more, but the community benefited from his unique coverage of their favorite pastime.
Parse.ly is an extremely valuable tool to know what our readers want, and whether we are providing it to them or not.Michael Phillips (Sports Editor, Richmond Times-Dispatch)
Example 3: Maria makes the case for more resources
As an editor for a news website, Maria was always looking for ways to improve her team’s content and bring in more subscribers. One day, she noticed a trend in the analytics provided by Parse.ly. Whenever they published heartwarming and feel-good stories (labeled “good news” using Parse.ly’s tag feature), their subscriber count increased significantly. Maria knew that this was a valuable insight that could help her team in more ways than one.
She shared her findings with her team, encouraging them to start brainstorming more positive stories to write.
The team got to work publishing more positive news, especially from local sources because their local story section was also popular. The response was immediate. Subscriptions poured in, and the team felt a renewed sense of purpose and energy. But what really amazed them was the impact their improved metrics had on the company’s resources.
With the increased subscriptions (and resulting revenue), Maria could make the case to leadership for more resources for her team. She suggested that the better they performed, the more they could improve the company’s bandwidth by hiring more journalists. Maria pointed to the analytics provided by Parse.ly as evidence of their success and the impact their work was having on the audience.
Thanks to Parse.ly, Maria identified valuable insights about her audience’s preferences, using that information to guide her team’s content strategy. As a result, the team’s improved performance not only helped the business but also enabled the company to invest in its journalism and bring more valuable content to its readers.
We use Parse.ly to measure how well we are reaching our audience. This is imperative because our readers… only want local news! We use those stats as a source of motivation to find even more local content to produce.Anonymous Reporter (USA Today, from TrustRadius)
Example 4: Sarah saves time
For years, Sarah, an audience development manager at a media company, had been responsible for compiling reports each morning for the team recap meeting. She would wake up early every day and head to the office at 7 a.m. to start preparing for the 9 a.m. call. This involved summarizing the prior day’s performance and prepping coverage and marketing for the current day. It was a time-consuming task that left Sarah exhausted before the day even began.
Sarah was skeptical when her company began using Parse.ly, but once she saw the difference it made, she was hooked.
With Parse.ly, Sarah could pull reports instantly, without spending hours manually compiling data. Best of all, she no longer had to rush in early to the office and deal with all that stress. Instead, she had time to enjoy her favorite yoga classes, which helped her start her mornings refreshed and energized.
The reports were still as detailed and accurate as ever, but Sarah could now balance her work and personal life better. Sarah’s colleagues noticed, too. They were impressed by how quickly she could pull reports and how much more relaxed and focused she seemed in the morning meetings.
Parse.ly saves us weeks of work compared to Google Analytics.Aakash Shah (CEO, Wyndly)
Example 5: Luis proves his value
As a reporter, Luis always felt worried about job security. In an era where print publications are struggling, he knew that every story he wrote had to perform well to justify his position. That’s why he was so excited when his company adopted Parse.ly. Now, he could see for himself how his stories were performing.
With the help of Parse.ly, Luis learned that his stories were consistently among the top-performing articles on the site, based on metrics like pageviews, engagement, and social media shares, compared with those of other staff writers.
For his annual review, Luis came armed with that data, proving just how valuable his work as a journalist was to the company. By pointing to the business KPIs that his stories had contributed to, he could make a compelling argument for a raise, and even a promotion.
Data-phobia is a real problem for a lot of teams—most analytics platforms are not made for writers. Parse.ly is the tool that makes it fun, simple, easy, and not scary to get data. You want to start using it on a daily basis.David Grossman(CMO, Backstage)
See? Data is a good thing!
We understand the potential stigma of using performance metrics to judge journalists’ work. Unfortunately, poorly used, content analytics and performance data can be used to threaten, intimidate, or even demean employees. But content analytics and the insights it brings can also be used in a positive light to defend and improve your work, and solidify the importance of both your role and your contributions.
Want to learn more about how journalists use Parse.ly?
About the author
John is the General Manager of Parse.ly, part of WordPress VIP. Since joining as a founding employee in 2011, John has served in nearly every role across the business. Currently, John organizes stakeholders across sales, marketing, customer success, and product to ensure the company is operating efficiently and in unison. In addition to his role at Parse.ly, John has been an Online News Association (ONA) NYC board member since 2016.