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Editorial Analytics: news organizations embracing analytics and metrics, but most have far to go

Feb 29, 2016

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News organizations are increasingly embracing the use of analytics and metrics as part of editorial decision making, but what constitutes a sophisticated analytics strategy? And why are so many media organizations still using such a rudimentary approach to analytics?

A new report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism looks at which organizations are building a competitive advantage over less advanced competitors through a better understanding of their audience, and what lessons others can take from their approaches.

Piano believes that analytics are one of the ways that publishers can more effectively engage with their audiences, segmenting users into cohorts and checking messaging efficacy with sophisticated multivariate testing. To learn more about our software, please check out our VX product page.

If you wish to read the entire report, you can download it.

Jon Skinner (ESPN) and Shane Smith (Vice) share thoughts at Code/Media

Feb 18, 2016

Piano’s David Restrepo is at the Code/Media conference in Dana Point, CA and listened to ESPN chief Jon Skinner talk about the future of ESPN. Apparently, David says, ESPN is working on getting its channels on more OTT streams across the web. He noted that Skinner said  the customer won’t get just ESPN, but a “skinny bundle” that would include some other Disney channels.
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ESPN President Jon Skinner at the Code/Media conference

David also had the opportunity to see Vice’s Shane Smith participate in a discussion about starting up a new cable TV channel called Viceland. Smith told the audience he thought it was a pretty great time to be starting a new channel as quality content is dominating user engagement.

David also sent this photo of a band playing (he didn’t say who) that was sponsored by Vevo. Turns out that Vevo could soon jump into the subscription race. CEO Erik Huggers told the crowd that a “more premium” subscription product is something that he’s mulled since taking the helm of the music video portal last April and that a fully ad-supported model is not sustainable in the long run.

Industry Insights: The Independent ditches print

It came as a surprise last week when the owner of the London quality daily, The Independent, announced he was shuttering the paper’s presses and going fully digital. Given the loss of print advertising revenue, declining subscriptions and sinking CPMs, is this really so shocking? Digital is cheaper to produce, there is no paper, no ink; there are no printing presses, no delivery trucks. By dumping print the Indy extends its opportunity to produce quality journalism and if you compare journalism to music, it make sense (from vinyl to MP3s). Let’s hope the Lebedevs are true to their word, reinvest the money they receive from the sale of the Indy’s sister paper i, back into the digital Independent.

Read more about what publishers are discovering  in this week’s Industry Insights, available now!

Code Conference kicks off tomorrow, Piano attending!

Feb 16, 2016

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We are excited that Piano’s Director of North American Sales & Business Development David Restrepo will be attending the code/media (#codemedia) conference, part of Vox Media’s re/code events, in Dana Point, CA starting tomorrow! This is an incredible conference with a lot of top media executives in attendance and plenty of interesting industry learnings to be shared. We  welcome the opportunity to meet any of you who are also going. If you are interested in setting up a meeting with David, please send him an email.

Lessons in paid content III: Don’t just slap a meter on it

This is another in a series of articles from Piano’s Lead Data Scientist Roman Gavuliak that were written last year and are being re-posted here for the edification of our faithful readers.

Lessons in Paid Content I: Not all content is created equal
Lessons in Paid Content II: The size of your audience
To read all of Roman’s articles please click here.

Our last post looked at the size of a target audience for a typical publishing site with 2 million monthly unique users as reported by Google Analytics. After accounting for Google’s user overestimation and users that only skim headlines, there were between 0.5M – 0.7M monthly readers left. Now, assume the example publisher’s online team decides to implement a meter limit of 10 articles per month; one that mirrors the current New York Times limit. What follows is the monthly content consumption for users in our example (based on similar real newspapers):

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The graph shows that the share of users reading more than 10 articles (10+ category) is below 10%. This is not uncommon for many titles and means a metered paywall with a setting of 10 free articles per month affects (building on the example) between 40k – 60k users, users who can be effectively monetized. This doesn’t mean a metered paywall makes no sense, it means there must be realistic expectations about its impact.

This curve allows for optimizing paywall impact, regrettably it lacks a sweet spot where there is an optimal trade-off between pageview and user impact. However, the sweet spot doesn’t exist because article pageviews follow roughly a 80/20 rule (80% of article pageviews are done by 20% of users) and, changes impacting pageviews are really much smaller when compared to changes in terms of affected audience. Therefore there is an inherent risk associated with implementing a metered paywall with any setting.

However, there is a big upside – a more aggressive approach brings more opportunity. To wit: numbers from metered paywall estimation are presented in the following table:

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The conclusion here is: don’t be scared!

The percentage of affected pageviews is only on articles. A metered paywall leaves homepages and section fronts freely accessible. The resulting percentage loss of pageviews from all pageviews is lower and decreases further based on the conversion rate (since the pageviews of paying users are retained and might even grow as these users now attribute a monetary value to the content they read).

Back to the example; lowering the meter setting from 10 to 4 free articles per month means increasing the absolute percentage pageview loss risk by 5.6% while almost doubling the absolute share of users affected (on all users reading articles). Keep in mind too, that people reading over 10 articles per month are more likely to pay than those reading only five articles per month.

So what is the takeaway here? Ten free articles per month might sound like a nice round number and it works for New York Times; but while user distribution is based on their reading level and follows a similar mathematical function, it differs in parameters. These differences are illustrated in the graph below. One daily Estonian title has roughly 1M monthly unique visitors while a Slovak daily has 2M monthly visits and two German titles have 1.9M and 2.7M respectively.


Despite having the smallest audience, a limit of 10 free articles a month would impact the greatest share of users at the Estonian daily newspaper.

A metered paywall then, is not about the size of your site, but about understanding your audience and putting this knowledge into action.