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The media business is tough. You need to keep a close eye on your audience, your competitors, new emerging platforms… but all this gets a lot tougher if you don’t monitor the right KPIs.
For any media outlet, keeping a close connection with your audience is crucial. But, with so many channels today, this is becoming increasingly difficult. Your content gets commented on across social media, in discussion forums, and (if you’re lucky) on your website. That’s a lot of channels to keep track of and, even if you manage to, you still need to understand what all of those likes, shares and comments really mean.
Establishing a good set of metrics and KPIs to track your content performance across the board is a fundamental step in understanding what the audience is telling you. If you can get this right, you can use this knowledge to adapt your content, engage with larger audiences, and monetize more efficiently.
Even if your media business dates back to the dark ages of offline, you’ve probably introduced a website as one of the key channels to distribute your content. Publishing online content on a wide range of platforms has become the norm for most publishers. In doing so, it poses a key question – how does all of this fit into a single view of your overall success?
Let’s take it back to the beginning – the number of website Users and Sessions is your first point of call. These metrics show how many people have effectively seen your content and how many times. You can then take a look at their demographics structure (Age, Gender) or geographical spread (Country, City).
But these data points don’t really tell you anything about audience engagement. For that, you want to take a look at KPIs such as Average Session Duration, the number of Pages per Session, and Scroll Depth. These are a great starting point for monitoring and understanding website and content performance and come free with most popular website analytics tools (Google Analytics or Microsoft’s Clarity).
Don’t forget about SEO either. Whether you want to use one of the specialized SEO tools, such as SEMrush or Ahrefs, or remain with the basic Google Search Console KPIs (Impressions, Clicks, CTR), you need to have a way to understand how your content ranks on search engines, and how you can improve two things – the Average Ranking Position and the Domain Authority of your website.
For the fast-paced news industry, ranking in the Google News segment is essential, so you need to make sure your news website fulfills the content and technical requirements set by Google. But, you also need to take care of the website loading speed by monitoring the Core Web Vitals, which will become a decisive search ranking factor from May 2021.
Besides looking into your website visitor and performance KPIs, looking into the engagement on your social media channels is also very important for news and other media outlets. Rather than just collecting numbers of Likes, Shares and Comments from Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, look more deeply into the connections between engagements on your social profiles and the content on your website.
For example, cross-referencing the number of clicks on social platforms leading to your website with average session durations for visitors coming from social will show you how well your content is resonating with your total audience, or certain segments.
Also, by using some of the social listening tools, such as Socialbakers or BrandWatch, you can use their Sentiment Analysis features to really understand the nature of engagements on your social profiles.
Those media outlets more focused on video will pay more attention to popular platforms like YouTube or TikTok. Total number of Views and Watch Time on YouTube Analytics will show you how popular your videos are. You can then drill-down into the stats of individual videos to see their Average View Duration and establish which types of content are performing best.
Of course, while concentrating on the quality and resonance of your content, you should not neglect the ad revenue side of your business. That is unless you have successfully moved to a subscription-based model, like The New York Times, who in Q3 2020 managed to bring in more revenue from online readers than from print subscribers. Or maybe your business was subscription-based from the very start, like Netflix.
If your business model still relies on ad-driven revenue, you might face some tough times in the coming years. Google has predicted that publishers will make 52% less revenue from programmatic advertising when the announced deprecation of the 3rd party cookie comes to life in late 2022. But until then, let’s look at the KPIs you need to monitor so that you can deliver a clear value to your advertisers.
Total Readership or Total Pageviews are at the core of any report, with additional arguments in favor of your compelling content, such as lower bounce rates and increasing time on page. All of these are interlinked with Impressions, Fill Rate, and eCPM for your inventory. Although this is much easier to report on in fully digital models, it is not impossible to add data from your offline ad impressions in print or impressions of ads on your TV programs, and show the value of your total inventory.
Turn this the other way around, and you’ll need to look at Revenue per Visitor or Revenue per Page. This will help you build a balanced picture of the impact the increasing quality of your content and your increasing audience engagement is having on your bottom line.
This may seem like a lot of data points and the truth is – it is. But, only when you start measuring these data and combining them into a single, centralized view, can you start managing it. And, in doing so, successfully steer your content, increase your audience, and keep a firm grasp on monetization.