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Lehigh University: An analysis on tags, devices and new/returning visitors

For the past year, The Brown and White has been using Parse.ly to track the success of different types of content by diligently labeling each of its published articles with tags. Editors then examined these tags to determine what type of readers the publication was able to attract.

Given The Brown and White’s online-first mentality, editors assumed that page views from new visitors were more valuable than those from returning visitors; they were especially interested in content that attracted new visitors who had the potential to expand their readership. Additionally, because mobile engagement has pushed past desktop engagement — and is only growing — the editors were interested in figuring out how to attract more mobile visitors.

As a result, The Brown and White aimed to answer the following research questions through the lens of tags and discuss the trends that accompany them:

  • What are our most successful and least successful tags?
  • Are more of our views coming from new or returning visitors?
  • Do readers engage with our content more from mobile or desktop?

"While there is good reason to write about topics that will interest our readers, newsrooms must ensure that decisions made based on the data do not compromise journalistic principles. View totals are helpful in figuring out the nature of articles that might be successful but should not solely be used to create a formula for attracting audience attention."

— Musa Jamshed, The Brown and White

After assessing the articles published over the past year, and their associated tags, editors at The Brown and White learned the following information to apply to its editorial content strategy:

  • Don’t assume what topics interest your audience. Just because The Brown and White is a collegiate paper does not mean it should cover all campus-related events; some events simply do not generate reader interest. When in doubt, editors can use more specific tags to see where they might be struggling with their coverage of campus-centric articles.

  • Focus on content that appeals to loyal readers. While new visitors are important, burgeoning online publications like The Brown and White should not focus content decisions on attracting new visitors for two reasons:

    • It is difficult to purposely attract new visitors with specific content choices because it is impossible to tell what yielded the new visitors; they may have been attracted, regardless.

    • There actually seems to be a negative correlation between the percentage of views for a tag that come from new visitors and the overall success of that tag.

  • Successful mobile content provides insight into successful content, in general. For The Brown and White, there is a positive relationship between the mobile success of a tag and the overall success of the tag, overall. Because of this, looking at overall success through the lens of mobile success is likely to be a plausible method of analysis.

  • Profiles work! Profiles are one of the most successful types of articles published by The Brown and White because they appeal to new visitors and do well in mobile environments.

Through these initial insights, The Brown and White is confident that it can improve its readership and maintain the integrity of its content.

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