Digital Innovation Digital Publishing Top Stories
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Analytics for publishers: Understand the true value of your content

Page views and click-throughs are not enough anymore. To grow loyal audiences and develop the broadest range of monetization opportunities you need the tools to build a deep understanding of what content works.


Publishing used to be more about instincts than insights. ‘What should we publish?’ was a conversation conducted without the threat of instant feedback. Performance data was available only at publication level and came in days, weeks, sometimes months after the fact.

Digital publishing and the introduction of audience analytics has changed the conversation forever. Now, data at the article level is readily available, from referral paths to conversion rates, dwell times to frequency of visits.

Knowing what content works is crucial in the increasingly competitive online media space. Content-related data and the audience insights it can deliver are among the most powerful growth tools any online publisher can have; but only if you are able to clearly reflect business objectives and deliver analysis that you can act upon.


  • With the volume of content published digitally, automated analytics data is indispensable to any publisher who wants to know where best to direct their content creation resources. Dashboards highlight the content attracting new audiences or engaging and converting registered users to subscribers. Data from incoming traffic traces the path visitors take to reach your content, helping target marketing spend or develop social distribution strategies.
  • In tracking visitor behaviours you can go deeper to compare content performance across audience segments. Understanding group or even individual preferences lets you target specific segments with the content most likely to engage, convert and retain readers. Behavioural data also directs the development of more effective user interactions, from mobile requirements to headline or subject line testing.
  • Knowing the value of your content to your audience makes it easier to monetize. Real-time insights into top performing articles and formats let you constantly refine content monetization strategies. Depending on your objectives, you can identify and prioritise the content that brings in the most new readers, the content that builds loyalty or the content that causes people to convert to paying subscribers.


  • It is crucial that the analytics platform you take on delivers the insights you need to progress your content strategy; aligning analytics data with your objectives is the only way to make insights actionable. It’s obvious, but if you’re trying to drive social referrals your analytics platform needs to support social media analysis, or if you are looking to build your conversion rates, it must integrate with your payment platform.
  • Plugging into a content analytics platform is only the start; you then have to create the right reporting dashboards for your business.To make the best use of analytics data, it needs to be easily accessible to everyone that needs it. Work with your vendor and invest the time to set up your systems so that they provide the right people with the right information.
  • Your people are every bit as important as your platform. The numbers show what happened, but it’s up to us to decide why it happened and how to make it happen again (or not). Think about hiring trained data analysts; at the very least train your people to understand the information your analytics platform provides in the context of your business and your objectives.


Real-time tools that Inform editorial decisions and increase readership

Chartbeat serves more than 60,000 media brands across 60 countries; leading  clients include The New York Times, The Telegraph and Le Monde.
The tools to understand content performance and deliver tailored content experiences was recently acquired by Automattic, owners of the world’s leading blogging platform WordPress. Clients include Bloomberg, Slate and Wired.

Maximising the value of your story in relation to your content strategy and business model

Founded in Holland, Smartocto recently merged with Content Insights, creating a client base of 150 media brands and 50 newsrooms across four continents.

Deliver more than subscribers think they paid for

In NiemanLab’s Predictions for Journalism 2021, Renée Kaplan, head of digital editorial development of the Financial Times, writes about a movie where a man falls in love with his phone’s operating system. This, she writes, is the kind of loyalty and commitment that every news media aims for.

To achieve that kind of loyalty, Kaplan believes publishers will need to leverage ‘every possible kind of behavioral data about our users’. The goal is to understand what topics and in what formats or devices to prioritize.

She says publishers have to learn how to anticipate a specific kind of content need and develop an adapted editorial product for it, “whether it’s shorter audio briefings in the morning, an email digest of text links on Saturdays, or a customized desktop homepage during working hours. We’ll need to be developing and providing our content in all of those formats and adapted to all of those modes of consumption.”

Further Reading

This article is an excerpt from our free-to-download report, 6 publishing technologies that will make a difference to your business.