Parse.ly U

University of Dallas: tracking online presence

After integrating the Parse.ly analytics software into The University News website, we have composed several goals for growing the site with the aid of the software. This report will first explain our initial goals, then it will detail the manner in which each section contributed to improving our online presence by using the Parse.ly data.

Parse.ly has been a key part of our efforts to track how our articles are viewed and shared.

At the beginning of the Fall 2016 semester, our goals were explained as follows: At The University News, we are very interested in using Parse.ly to analyze our site traffic to use in the integration of social media visibility and advertising.

This semester, one of our goals as a newspaper website has been to start generating income from our website from advertising. Advertising is only truly effective when there is significant site traffic. We have been exploring various social media sites and sharing techniques to generate site traffic to spur our advertising efforts.

Parse.ly has been a key part of our efforts to track how our articles are viewed and shared. It is an invaluable tool to guide us in our posting and sharing schedules, our tagging strategies, and in the subject of our articles. Using Parse.ly, we have been able to identify what our readers are interested in, and guide our reporting strategies from there.

In order to achieve this goal of increased advertising revenue, each section first worked to improve readership and online traffic. This effort and the effect of Parse.ly to attain it will first be shown within each section individually, then across our publication as a whole.

News

In the News section of The University News, Parse.ly was found to be an invaluable tool in tracking what kinds of news stories people were most interested in. Of course, news is often self-selecting, and certain stories are intuitive selections. Nevertheless, each week, we are faced with choices on which stories to cover, and Parse.ly’s data has helped us track what kinds of stories people are reading. That helps us decide on worthy articles for the following weeks: if, for instance, we know people are more interested in stories involving administrative decisions than student government, it helps direct our efforts, which is especially critical in news. So many things happen every week that it is often difficult to decide which events, decisions and controversies are worth reporting on. In that sense, Parse.ly is a great asset in helping to make those determinations. While "hits" do not singularly determine what is and is not good news, knowing what people care about is critical in refining the process of creating a viable news column on a weekly basis.

Commentary

Parse.ly has been used to compare the frequency with which certain stories are opened to how long people stay on them, with the goal of integrating them and getting longer viewing times for pieces which interest readers but don't keep them hooked. “Dialogue,” “religion,” “atheism” and “controversial” have been the tags with highest average engagement times; while visitors per post were highest with “LGBT,” “Catholic” and “Title IX.” This reflects our two biggest story trends of the past semester, but the marked division between the popular but quickly abandoned Title IX stories as opposed to the less flashy but more engaging series of responses to an atheist student at a Catholic university has been interesting. As a result, we are trying to emphasize controversy and dialogue in headlines and taglines but ensure that the first few paragraphs of a story contain a temporally relevant topic and an opinion which could be seen as popular within the university but unique without, as this seems to be what kept readers intrigued.

Arts and Culture

The Arts & Culture section is unique in its inclusion of multiple columns. We used Parse.ly to follow the popularity of each column from week to week. This allowed us to determine, for each individual column, which topics our audience read the most and which they read the least. Based on this information, we were able to decide which topics to write on more frequently in order to meet the wishes of our readers. In addition, we were able to decide which columns we might like to phase out, in order to have more space for columns that were more successful with our audience.

Sports

The Sports section has also used Parse.ly to determine which stories appeal to readers, leading to an emphasis within the section on stories that go beyond summarization of recent sports events. These stories include coach profiles, opinion pieces regarding student-athlete culture, news pieces about basketball player anthem protests and a sports column. This new direction toward more engaging pieces has caused a general growth in interest in the section.

Advertising

While each of our section editors focused on using Parse.ly to track popular subjects and increase readership, we then worked to turn the data into information we can use to improve our use of online advertisements. Our business management sector of the publication describes the effect of Parse.ly as follows: Parse.ly was used to aid in advertising. Parse.ly is a great way to track analytics and see the number of viewers per article. The reason that this is important to advertisement is that we are able to see which pages online are viewed the most over not only the past few days or week but we can look at long-term trends. We can then use this knowledge of page and article traffic to determine where to place advertisements. This is not yet something we currently do but we think it would be a great way to use this tool in the future, if we could advertise on our most popular pages. In the past we have used Parse.ly to find out our online readership in order to pitch these numbers to people across campus and off campus in the hopes of selling more advertisements.

We have begun to improve our integration of online advertisements in accordance with the traffic data provided by Parse.ly.

As we examine trends of The University News as a whole, we have noticed that Wednesday usually sees the greatest traffic. This is the day that our print issue is published and the website is updated, so we have been able to see a link between new content and increased readership. For the future, we hope to be able to post new stories on the website each day so that online readership can be sustained throughout the week.

Furthermore, Parse.ly has shown the effect of social media sharing. One of our newest columns in the News section that features an alumnus each week is often the week’s most popular piece because it is more extensively shared by the University of Dallas Alumni Relations office throughout the university’s network of alumni. As a result, we are intent on improving our social media sharing trends for all of our stories so that readership can be increased across the board.

Finally, as previously discussed, we have begun to improve our integration of online advertisements in accordance with the traffic data provided by Parse.ly. We have earned revenue by posting advertisements both on the home page of our website as well as within certain sections or articles on the site. These advertisements have come both from various offices at the university as well as from local businesses in the Dallas area. We hope to continue to grow our advertising efforts by lowering our prices and by bundling print and online advertising for our clients.

In conclusion, access to the Parse.ly software has allowed us to track our online traffic both in our individual sections and throughout the publication as a whole. It has also allowed us to form strategies for improving our readership, social media management, and advertising revenue. For these reasons, the software will continue to be essential in our efforts to bolster The University News publication both by offering high-quality and relevant content and by increasing profit.

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