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July 25 2011

19:37

Google Analytics tracks Google +1, Facebook's "Like" and Tweeter "Tweet"

Media companies using Google Analytics can now easily evaluate the social engagement of their online readers. If visitors "Like" or "RT" articles or click on +1, Google Analytics has integrated the measuring of social engagement into its available set of metrics.

practical ecommerce :: The new Google Analytics "Social" report tracks what Google calls "Social Engagement," "Social Actions," and "Social Pages." The Social Engagement compares visitors that clicked on a social sharing button with those visitors that did not engage. Social Action displays how many visitors clicked on a social-media-sharing button for a given date range. Social Pages, shows which site pages received social-sharing clicks for the given time period. 

Continue to read Armando Roggio, www.practicalecommerce.com

January 13 2011

19:30

National Post rolls out digital “welcome mats”

On Monday, Canada’s National Post published an article about a local school instituting a ban on gay-straight alliance groups. It’s a good local story with broad cultural relevance, and, not surprisingly, it got linked on the web-curiosities aggregator Fark. Which led to a sudden surge in traffic to the story on the Post’s site.

The Post uses the real-time analytics tool Chartbeat — an addiction for many a digital newsie — and so noticed both the spike and its source. So its web production team updated the school story to include a specialized greeting to the new visitors (“Welcome, Fark readers!”), as well as some hand-curated links that it figured might interest members of the Fark community.

“We’re trying to make things just a little more relevant — a little more meaningful — to you in every way we can,” Chris Boutet, the senior producer for digital media at the Post, told me. The paper’s been experimenting with what it calls “welcome mats” since the summer, doing similar experiments with “Westerners vs. the world: We’re the Weird ones” and “Garbage truck cameras give new meaning to trash TV” (“Welcome, Drudge Report readers”);
A Tale of Two Ghettos” (“Welcome, Reddit readers”); and “Margaret Atwood Thinks the Moon Landing Was Fake — Or Does She?” and “When is twins too many?” (“Welcome, Fark readers”).

The Post isn’t the only outlet to experiment with the welcome mat idea. The Wall Street Journal, when it realized that an old story ranked first on a Google search for “Verizon iPhone,” tried something similar, as well. So have we here at the Lab. (If you know of any others, we’d love to hear about them in the comments.)

The mats take a few minutes to put together, Boutet says, and the return isn’t just a matter of more traffic — although that’s certainly part of it. (With the school story, “the clickthrough was just okay,” he notes. “It wasn’t huge, but it certainly was more through traffic than we would have seen if we hadn’t had that there. It always is.”) The bigger idea is brand identity. “We basically have two kinds of readers that visit the site: native readers and nomadic readers. Natives come to you because you’re you; nomadic readers are coming in from other communities or search traffic.” Welcome mats are an attempt to do what every news organization hopes to: to convert some of the nomads into natives. “We’re just trying to get them that little bit deeper into the site,” Boutet notes, and “to get them to develop some opinion or feeling about what the National Post is. And maybe next time, they’ll come back here natively.”

We often talk about the web’s effect on narrative, how its new grammars are changing the way we write and connect and even think. What we talk less about, though, is the web’s effect on the structures narratives operate within: assumptions about what constitutes relevance itself. “Archive,” we assume, is an analog concept. But there’s no need for it to be. There’s nothing to say that older stories can’t find new relevance in a networked environment — or that stories’ structures can’t leverage analytics in the same way that their narratives do. Welcome mats are one way to do that. (For Wordpress users, there’s even a handy plugin, WP Greet Box, that can generate those mats automatically.) Another might be, for example, to add specific social media buttons to stories when they’re seen by users who’ve reached the site from them. (Someone who came to a site from StumbleUpon might see StumbleUpon buttons on the site’s pages, for instance. A Digg visitor would see Digg buttons.)

Real-time analytics — in fact, the plethora of new metrics available for news organizations to learn and otherwise benefit from — mean that outlets have a fantastic new way to relate to their users and, of course, their products. Stories on news sites, Boutet notes, can feel very static. “We fire and forget, and they read it, and no one ever looks at it again.” But welcome mats, and similar real-time updates, can be small gestures of dynamism. “What we want to do is make people aware, in a subtle way, that this is all part of the communication between the reader and the editors of a site. We’re watching you watching us.”

September 14 2010

20:29

Social Media Helps Drive Traffic, Engagement at NewsHour

When the PBS NewsHour relaunched both on-air and
online in December, a new homepage was unveiled, a news blog was born and a new
correspondent joined the team. But another big change unfolded behind the
scenes as well: The addition of a social media desk assistant (myself) dedicated to
fostering an online community and better distributing PBS NewsHour content
digitally. In just a few months, the PBS NewsHour has pushed social media sites
into the top 10 referrers to our website, and they will eventually leave organic search results on Bing and Yahoo in the dust.


Beyond the numbers is a shift in newsroom attitudes toward social media. When I first arrived, Twitter was only tolerated as an online trend. It has since expanded into something that most of our on-air correspondents -- Gwen Ifill, Judy Woodruff, Margaret Warner, Hari Sreenivasan, David Chalian, among others -- and many behind-the-scenes staff use on a regular basis. They gather information, track breaking news, crowdsource questions and share details that couldn't quite make it into the broadcast's in-depth analysis of the day's happenings. 

   

Twitter

Breaking News

By focusing on breaking news that suits our audience, we've covered subjects that have become a "Trending Topics" on Twitter several times. While the short-term value is a spike in traffic for our content on the subject, the longer-term value is exposure to new audiences. We retain on
average 150-200 new followers during each event (in addition to our usual addition of about 250 to 300 followers on weekdays). While the return on investment remains lower than that of Facebook, the exposure -- and the immediate clickthroughs -- do bring in new unique visitors. We are working to determine precisely how many visitors we are retaining.

Last week, another oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. Given that one of our major traffic drivers for the past four months has been BP's Horizon oil
disaster
, we immediately tweeted the news, credited to @ap. That tweet was retweeted at least 155 times over the course of the day, including more than 100 within the first hour. The followup article, which was posted within 45 minutes of the news and updated throughout the day, received 541 clickthroughs on its aggregate bit.ly link and, per that site, was retweeted more than 100 times. It also generated at least 39 comments on Facebook. According to our Google Analytics, the page was viewed 1504 times with 233 referrals from Twitter compared to only seven hits from Google News. The
biggest referrer? Facebook, with 270 hits.

facebook_referrals_versus_yahoo!,_bing (2).png 



Why it matters: In addition to exposure to new audiences, it gives us a demonstrable way of measuring the return on investment for our web content that, in turn can shape the way we structure our emerging, web-conscious newsroom, and the bridge between our traditional broadcast practices and the "early adopter" status online that some of our team members maintain. 



Features Designed for Social Media


By comparison, consider a piece that was designed for the web and meant to spread rapidly online. Our arts team, @NewsHourArtBeat, interviewed musician Andrew Bird, whose fan base is largely online-oriented. Bird himself retweeted the link, as did 97 other Twitter entities. The story (published Sept. 2) has seen more than 8,000 individual page views on an otherwise slow weekend
for web traffic. A throw from the broadcast on Monday night, plus a well-timed tweet during the show added another 55 clicks to the main bit.ly link. 


Why it matters: We're pushing content before an audience that is aware of -- but not involved with -- our brand, while maintaining the editorial standards that have supported the show over the past 34 years. While web traffic is never the whole reason we do a
piece -- we've come to recognize that content needs an impetus to spread, and to matter to our viewers, new and old.
 

Social Media Use for Reporting

In addition to the shift toward pushing content into the social media space, we're also drawing on social media as a source by pulling content into our pieces and using Twitter especially to gain insight into events and places that we can't physically cover. As Sreenivasan has said, Twitter has become an "immersive sonar" of sorts, enabling us to monitor multiple sources and streams of information simultaneously.

While it is more work to verify sources, it's easier to see trends, directions and questions around a topic that readers and consumers are likely going to want answers to. This enables us to reach and expand our audience more effectively over the long-term. 



#Blagojevich


Across the newsroom, PBS NewsHour reporters and correspondents -- including Sreenivasan -- had Tweetdeck and HootSuite running in the background awaiting news of a verdict in the former Illinois governor's corruption trial.

As news broke of Blagojevich's conviction on one count, it was precariously near air time. Twitter beat out the AP for reporting facts from the scene, which we could then cross-check against primary sources. It also helped us uncover live-streams from Chicago media that the newsroom watched until our own broadcast went live.



#Prop8



As news of the Proposition 8 verdict broke in California, the newsroom turned to Twitter, sourcing a copy of the judge's verdict before the court's official document was posted on PACER. We supplied it to our on-air team before the broadcast, informing their discussion of the subject as much as possible, in addition to republishing it via DocumentCloud on our own website.



Engagement on Facebook



We've come to depend on -- and ask questions of -- our ever-faithful Facebook audience. When I started engaging the community on our page, we had about 5,000 fans and an RSS feed was used to add content to the page. Today, we have more than 15,000 fans and, according to Facebook's Insights toolset, we have in excess of 5,000 active users on the page every day, and an average of about 50 new "likes" per day.

According to those same statistics, about 13,000 of our fans were active on our page in the past month. On Sept. 3, for example, 15 minutes before our regular political analysts Mark Shields and David Brooks were due into the studio, I posted to our Facebook page a request for topics for the online-only segment they tape every week. Within 10 minutes, I had several substantive questions. The video of Brooks, Shields and Sreenivasan answering those questions (and two more from Twitter) was posted later that evening, and we have since thanked each of the contributors personally for sharing.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Now that social media has an established presence at the PBS NewsHour, we're examining how we can further embrace it both as a way to push our content -- via targeted advertising and search engine optimization, etc. -- and to pull people in by encouraging correspondents and staff members to use social media as a resource for stories, ideas and audience development.

So far, we've started to run Facebook advertising campaigns with incredibly small budgets ($10 to 15 per day) and very high returns (between .05-.078 percent conversion). Combined with a recent PBS
Facebook push, we've seen a jump from 14,900 fans (on a Friday) to 15,448 (on the following Wednesday). We spent, on average, $.63 per new fan. This represents a turning point. We will continue our organic efforts -- consistent posting, integrating other fan pages' into our content shares, targeted distribution, etc. -- in addition to our new paid endeavor.


Our ultimate goal is to maintain our incredibly high (87 percent) interaction rate as we grow our fan page to 30,000 fans and beyond. Ultimately, we expect Facebook's utility to keep up with market trends -- and rival the ROI of Google search in our quest for relevant, engaged users. 

Outside of the numbers that prove our success, our users' appreciation of our efforts has become something that we look for and appreciate as a team.

Our brand, one of the oldest and most respected in television, has morphed from a group that had an erratic and undefined presence on the Internet to one that has become a place to test new ideas and reach into new parts of the media space, in addition to being a hub of the traditional in-depth reporting and analysis.

What do you think of our efforts at NewsHour? How do you think they could be improved? Share your thoughts in the comments.

@KateGardiner (kategardiner.com)
is the PBS NewsHour's first-ever social media desk assistant and a
recent graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of
Journalism. She frequently consults on social media development for
media companies.


This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

May 18 2010

16:00

Mediagazer: From zero to big traffic driver in just two short months

Last week we were perusing our Google Analytics report here at the Lab and one data point stood out: A site barely two months old had inched into our top 10 referring sites for the previous month. Checking today, it’s up into our top five, passing up many more traditional traffic drivers.

The site is Mediagazer, the media-focused offshoot of the popular technology site Techmeme, and like its sibling it combines editors and an algorithm to gather the best stories on its subject from around the web. On Monday, Mediagazer debuted a feature called Leaderboard (it came first to Techmeme) which ranks news-about-news sources in terms of their prominence on Mediagazer. (We fare well on it, but I swear that’s not why we’re interested.)

I spoke with the site’s editor Megan McCarthy about how the site became a traffic-driver so quickly. McCarthy credits the site’s addictive quality: People arrive via the online equivalent of word of mouth, like social media, and once they’re there, a hefty (though undisclosed) percentage keep coming back. The site already has a core readership that checks in every day, McCarthy said. Mediagazer refreshes every five minutes, thanks to the algorithm searching the web for new content getting linked by other sites; meanwhile, McCarthy is trolling the web for links the algorithm might not have seen yet and prioritizing the ones it has. On a typical day, Mediagazer links to about 40 stories. (McCarthy would not disclose monthly traffic statistics.)

Mediagazer isn’t entering an empty space; from Romenesko to our own Twitter feed, there are plenty of people sorting through the media news of the day. Mediagazer’s scope is broader than, say, ours, including things like new TV lineups and media criticism we wouldn’t cover. Mediagazer joins the other sites run by Techmeme: political news at Memeorandum, celebrity gossip at WeSmirch, and baseball at BallBug, although those three sites are purely automated with no human intervention.

The site is also active on Twitter, sending out the links it posts, with the tweak of including the personal Twitter handle of the author who wrote the post, as you can see above. (The tweet attribution is automated, but requires a one-time setup process with the help of the human.) McCarthy said they want to let journalists know about Mediagazer — I certainly noticed the @ mentions showing up in my Twitter feed — and they want to give readers another opportunity to drill down into a subject area of interest.

“I want anyone who looks at the site to know, not only what’s going on [in the media industry], but what’s going to happen,” McCarthy said.

The combination of links, frequent updates, and obsessive readers seems to create the kind of place that active tweeters and bloggers would stop by. That target audience is clear in the kind of advertisements Mediagazer serves — they seem to be primarily from companies that provide software services to bloggers. It also probably explains why we’re seeing so many Mediagazer readers coming our way.

March 30 2010

18:56

A “reader affection” formula: Gawker creates a metric for branded traffic

Influence, engagement, impact: For goals that are, in journalism, kind of the whole point, they’re notoriously difficult to quantify. How do you measure, measure a year, and so on.

Turns out, though, that Gawker Media, over the past few years, has been attempting to do just that. Denton and Crew, we learned in a much-retweeted post this morning, have been “quietly tending” a metric both more nebulous and more significant than pageviews, uniques, and the other more traditional ways of impact-assessment: They’ve been measuring branded traffic — or, as the post in question delightfully puts it, “recurring reader affection.” The metric comes from a simple compound: direct type-in visits plus branded search queries in Google Analytics.

In other words, Gawker Media is bifurcating its visitors in its evaluation of them, splitting them into two groups: the occasional audience, you might call it, and the core audience. And it’s banking on the latter. “New visitors are only really valuable if they become regulars,” Denton pointed out in a tweet this morning. (That lines up with Denton’s recent pushing of unique visits over pageviews as a performance metric.)

The goal — as it is for so many things in journalism these days — is to leverage the depth against the breadth. As the post puts it:

While distributing content across the web is essential for attracting the interest of Internet passersby, courting these wanderers, massaging them into occasional visitors, and finally gaining their affection as daily readers is far more important. This core audience — borne of a compounding of word of mouth, search referrals, article recommendations, and successive enjoyed visits that result in regular readership — drives our rich site cultures and premium advertising products.

I spoke with Erin Pettigrew, Gawker Media’s head of marketing and advertising operations — and the author of the post in question — over gChat to learn more about the outlet’s branded-traffic metric.

“The idea came from a few places,” she told me.

First, for so long we concerned ourselves with reach and becoming a significant enough web population such that advertisers would move us into their consideration set for marketing spend. Now that we have attained a certain level of reach and that spend consideration, we’re looking for additional ways to differentiate ourselves against other publisher populations. So branded traffic helps to illuminate our readership’s quality over its quantity, a nuanced benefit over many of the more broadly reaching sites on the web.

Secondly, there’s a myth, especially in advertising, that frequency of visitation is wasteful to ad spend. As far as premium content sites and brand marketers go, however, that myth is untrue. So, the ‘branded traffic’ measure is part of a larger case we’re making that advertising to a core audience (who visits repeatedly) is extremely effective.

Another aspect of that case, she adds, is challenging assumptions about reader engagement. “The wisdom has been that the higher the frequency of ad exposures to a single visitor, the less effective a marketing message becomes to that visitor. To the contrary, the highly engaged reader is actually far more receptive to the publisher’s marketing messaging than the occasional passerby.

In other words, she says: “Branded traffic is to a free website what a subscriber base is to a paid content site. The psychology behind the intent to visit and engage with the publisher brand in those two instances is very similar.”

The approach’s big x-factor — whether branded traffic will get buy-in, in every sense, from marketers — remains to be determined. “It’s something we’re just beginning to explore,” Pettigrew says. But marketers, she points out, “have always considered front door takeovers or roadblocks as one of the most coveted advertising placements on a publisher website. And they “intuitively understand that the publisher brand’s halo is brightest and strongest for a reader who comes through the front door seeking the publisher’s brand experience” — which is to say, they should realize the value of the core audience. “But we’ve yet to see a metric take hold across the industry that gets at a numerical understanding of this marketer intuition.”

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