6 Big Digital Media Analytics Mistakes to Avoid, for Publishers

By NativeAI / August 9, 2018

One of the great ironies for digital media publishers is that the more insights they receive the less clear things seem to get.

Despite an ever-growing flood of metrics, many organizations are struggling to turn what they receive from analytics tools into concrete actions that directly improve content performance.

What's going on? After spending the past seven years working with publishers to hone our NativeAI platform we've realized that much of this struggle is caused by a core set of issues that are prevalent across the industry.

Specificialy, organizations of all sizes tend to make these six key analytics mistakes over and over:

Focusing on Traffic Instead of Engagement

It's understandable why publishers pay such close attention to traffic metrics such as visits: these insights are usually the easiest to find and they provide a clear yardstick for success.

The problem is that traffic often isn't very useful beyond understanding where people are coming from.

What matters much more is engagement. To truly understand the impact of your efforts, it's important to know whether people are sticking with your content, where you're losing them, and how compelling a piece is compared with others. That's why it's essential to look at metrics such as time spent, scroll depth, and user actions rather than simply traffic.

Believing All Audiences Behave Similarly

Often the very language of online analytics — site visits, etc. — implies that readers/viewers are a monolithic group. It's no wonder then that publishers often tend to treat their audiences this way.

That is a huge mistake. Most organizations create content that appeals to a variety of groups and it is important to acknowledge this.

Fundamentally, in order to optimize performance it's important to understand the nuanced behaviors of different audiences. By segmenting out your visitors — by interest, by referral source, by device used — you may discover a treasure trove of valuable insights.

Missing Opportunities for Related Engagement

For a long time publishers have used analytics and keywords to serve related content and experiences to audiences. The problem is that usually these connections are simply the most direct ones: a reader of an NBA story is served additional suggested posts about basketball.

What publishers often miss out on are the richer opportunities for related engagement. In building our analytics with a natural language processing engine that classifies stories into more than one million distinct audience interests, we've seen that various audience segments have a wide-range of different content affinities.

In other words, people who read NBA stories on your site may also to tend to be interested in a range of other, seemingly unconnected topic areas. By identifying and serving these unexpected needs, you can significantly improve engagement across your content.

Not Making Real-Time Adjustments

For the most part publishers tend to think of analytics insights as being historical: they aren't about what's happening right now but rather identify what worked, or didn't work, in the past.

The truth is that real-time insights are both easy to access and incredibly valuable.

By monitoring how content pieces are performing in the moment, you can impact performance. If a piece is underperforming you can amplify promotion on site, on social, or via paid channels. If a piece is rising unexpected quickly, it may also warrant additional attention. Over time, these on-the-fly decisions can improve engagement across your content.

Ignoring What's Working for Competitors

Another common mistake publishers make is to focus solely on their own analytics.

While it is important to monitor your own efforts, it's also essential to pay attention to what others are up to.

Often organizations forget that this sort of competitive analysis is now relatively simple. With just a few clicks it's possible to see how pieces from other publishers are performing and to understand the impact of their tactics on various online channels (search, social, etc.). This means you don't have to reinvent the wheel each day: there is a starting point to see what is and isn't working.

Failing to Dive Deep Into What's Succeeding

Finally, publishers frequently fail to truly understand what's succeeding.

Often organizations will identify which pieces are doing well and then stop there. They won't take the next step and dive deep into what this content has in common.

That's a shame because analytics tools can provide a host of useful data. With just a little bit of work you can find valuable insights that will help with with your future content creation efforts. For example, today it's possible to quickly get insights such as whether pieces posted by certain authors perform better.

That's true of all the common mistakes covered: they can be overcome by today's analytics platforms. Our Publisher Analytics tool, NativeAI makes it easy to evaluate content quality, view the content affinities of different audiences, monitor real-time performance, perform competitive analyses, and understand the qualities of successful content. Ultimately, all publishers have to do is shift from aggregating more and more metrics to focusing on the right metrics.

Written by NativeAI / August 9, 2018