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Digging deeper into analytics

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With their controlled-circulation magazines, business media companies have always offered advertisers and marketers access to detailed information about their audiences. Now, with the rise of analytics, a number of business media companies are offering b-to-b marketers perhaps even more detailed—and timely—information about their online audiences. “Vance is obsessed with analytics,” said Dean Horowitz, VP-e-media and market intelligence at Vance Publishing Corp., which publishes Pork and Modern Salon. “It is integrated into our audience development and content decision-making processes.” To gain a deeper understanding of its audience, Vance uses a variety of analytics offerings, including Google Analytics, Unica NetInsight, the company's own CMS reporting systems, its ad-server reporting and IBM's SPSS for predictive analytics. “Because metrics is part of our core organizational focus, we are very open to new products that fit our work flow and needs,” said Horowitz, who added that Vance uses these tools to measure usage, engagement, user experience and loyalty. For publishers looking to bolster their audience analytics technology, Horowitz recommends consideration of the technology's reporting options—for instance, does it have a dashboard and how simple is it to use? He also suggests taking a close look at how the technology interfaces with other systems and storage capabilities. Bobit Business Media, which publishes Automotive Fleet, also uses Google Analytics to look at audience numbers. The company analyzes a number of metrics: page views, unique visitors, total visits, page views per visit, visits per visitor and average time spent on site. Bobit also tracks how these metrics change month by month and year by year. The company also uses Google Analytics to track traffic sources and gauge whether the users are coming directly to Bobit's sites or via search engine, social media or other referrals. “We then use a service called SEM Rush to track how many keyword phrases we rank for in Google SERPs [search engine reply pages],” said Desiree Bennett Forsyth, former senior audience marketing manager at Bobit and the founder of audience-development consultancy Density Media. “How many top 10 [first page] and how many No. 1 ... and how this relates to our search engine traffic. We'll use this info, along with the Google Keyword tool, to keep refining our keyword strategies to gain more search-engine traffic.” Bobit also uses Facebook Insights to collect demographic information about visitors to the Facebook pages of its brands, such as Work Truck and Nails magazines. Another business media company plunging into analytics is Editorial Projects in Education. In addition to Google Analytics, the company uses Adobe Site Catalyst, which provides real-time feedback, for its larger Web properties such as edweek.org and teachermagazine.org. On the advertising production front, the company uses DoubleClick to track performance data, according to Shane Steinfeld, manager of advertising operations for the company. For business media companies pondering adding analytics, Steinfeld recommends first deciding what information is meaningful to the company and why. “From that perspective you can make an informed decision about whether you can get away with a specialized installation of a free system like Google Analytics—which, I've found, most small or medium-sized businesses can—or whether a system that can produce more detailed reporting is warranted,” he said. He said almost any analytics system is going to give you access to more information than most companies know what to do with. “Most companies have very little idea what it is the numbers are showing them,” he said. “It's the interpretation of the data that's the real bottleneck, not the plusses or minuses of the analytics system being used to collect the data.” He said, for example, that “time on site” is one metric that can be misinterpreted. If a reader spends a lot of time on the company's EPE Research Center site, he said, it could be a sign of a high level of engagement with the content. Or it could mean that the reader simply couldn't find what she was looking for. “This is an overly simple example,” he said, “but it's this sort of failure to correctly interpret the data that makes any investment in an analytics system a poor one if there isn't an investment made in bringing up or bringing in people to understand what the numbers are saying.” At UBM Canon, the company has made efforts to merge the rich trove of offline audience data gleaned from its controlled-circulation magazines with its online analytics. When Roger Burg, UBM Canon's VP-operations, took over circulation about five years ago at what was then Canon Communications, he found that the company had about 49 different separate audience files. “I worked with our circ director to get pricing from KMPS, our fulfillment house, to roll all the separate files into one master file. Then I started pitching [the idea to] our then-CEO, Charlie McCurdy.” With time and effort, the files still maintain separate silos, but, as Burg said, “roll up to a single view of each reader/attendee.” More data, such as email addresses, have since been appended to the files. The company's e-newsletters all launch from KMPS' ECN system, with metadata that will give UBM behavioral data as people click on various elements of the company's websites, Burg said. “Last year, we connected the ECN data with the master file,” he said. “It's a powerful tool. Obviously, it helps us identify areas of interest of our audience.” Ultimately, that kind of information may help UBM introduce new products or additional editorial in those specific areas. “It also better identifies real leads for our advertisers,” Burg said. “We now offer UBM Canon Data Mine as an upsell for our Qmed site. At certain spending levels, advertisers get limited access to leads.” Of course, having access to so much data can be a dangerous thing as well. Burg added that UBM has put protocol in place to reduce the number of promotional emails any given reader would get in order to help protect against list fatigue—and abusing the audience that is so very valuable.
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