How to Fill in the Blanks About Your Audience & Discover New Opportunities
Publishers know that they need to have data about their audience for a number of reasons. They need to know who is reading their content and whether that content is resonating with them. Additionally, they need to understand their audience demographics and engagement in order to sell advertising to the right brands. This should sound familiar because the goal of audience data hasn’t really changed since the pre-web days. In the past publishers collected demographic information from print subscriptions and BPA statements and learned about reader interests from consumer surveys. What’s changed is how publishers collect data and the data points available.
With the growth of online content, many publishers only know a portion of the readers that visit their sites -- those that have opted into an email or webinar or downloaded a white paper. And even among these opted-in readers, demographic data is often sparse. That’s a big problem because many publishers are failing to take into account these readers’ interests and adjust their strategy accordingly. Often, that translates to missed revenue opportunities.
Unknown and incomplete audience data were challenges that Bill Levine wanted to overcome when he joined the STEM publisher Mary Ann Liebert Publishing three years ago as commercial director. The STEM publisher only knew 10% of the online audience for its Genetic Engineering News (GEN) website. Levine wanted to learn who that other 95% -- roughly 450,000 individuals -- were, what type of content would resonate most with them, and how to better monetize their interest. “We have an email address and some other limited data,” said Levine, speaking at Publishing Executive Live: Data, Insight & Revenue Summit. “How can we fill in the demographics to learn more about the profile of those individuals?”
Exchanging Content for Audience Insights
To tackle the unknown audience issue, Levine and his team worked with Omeda, using their Olytics platform which tracks individual’s behavior on publisher sites. The Olytics platform can use that behavioral data and map it to GEN’s website taxonomy to highlight what topics are resonating most with the audience.
“For example, we set up an email campaign and set a rule that any audience member that clicked on an article about sequencing -- a topic that was trending on our site -- more than two times in one month, we’d put them in a pool,” explained Levine. “Then we created a drip marketing email campaign that automatically sent these readers the top ten articles on sequencing that were published on GEN in the last year.”
GEN also took this opportunity to learn more about its readers. “We thought if we put these 10 articles together, that it would be a great exchange of value for them to tell us a little about themselves, to confirm their information, and answer a purchasing question,” said Levine.” Once the audience member filled in the missing demographic information, they could download a PDF, which featured the top articles on sequencing.
In this particular campaign GEN received twice as many opens as a typical email and converted about 20% of those that opened. GEN also discovered that the new demographic information it collected was a lead generation gold mine. One company in the sequencing space indicated that it would pay as much as $125 per lead for the information.
Finding Patterns in Audience Data
GEN also used the Olytics platform to pinpoint interesting data points and patterns. Levine said his team was interested in learning who the most valuable online users were and what channels and platforms they used most to access GEN content. Using Olytics to dive deeper into reader behavior data, GEN discovered a number of surprising patterns.
The STEM publisher assumed most of its audience was made up of research scientists and pharmaceutical professionals. But Olytics revealed a much greater diversity of high-powered users. One user, dubbed “NASA Nancy,” was a GEN magazine subscriber, a newsletter subscriber, and had registered for GEN webinars. NASA Nancy was a highly engaged user in an industry that GEN had largely overlooked. “There were some surprises really in terms of who were our most loyal advocates in the market,” said Levine.
Insights like these led Levine and his team to realize that high-value audience members are finding GEN content through social media (a channel the publisher rarely used), that readers often read GEN content on Saturdays, and that mobile usage across its audience was exploding. All of these insights influenced GEN’s strategy and helped the publisher identify new revenue opportunities.
One audience insight that has paid off big for GEN already is the switch to sending marketing emails on Saturday morning -- a decision made based on readers’ tendency to check the their emails first thing on Saturday’s. “That led us to get webinar registrations that were off the hook,” said Levine. “It was double what we had during the busy portions of the week.”
When It Comes to Data, Walk Before You Run
Levine said the switch to using the Olytics platform forced his team to look at single data points and understand the implications of those behaviors on the site. He said that in the past marketers looked at 600 data points on Google Analytics, only gaining a general sense of overall traffic. Now the team is breaking up data into more digestible pieces, or “walking before they run,” as Levine described it. “There are business models starting to emerge from this bite-sized data that we never would have considered before.”
Check out Bill Levine's complete presentation from the Publishing Executive Live: Data Insight & Revenue Summit.
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