Publishers collect massive amounts of data, not just through magazine subscriptions, but also from every platform where they create content, including social media, newsletters, event registrations, and their websites. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the volume of information, but publishers don’t need to analyze every interaction on these platforms in order to be successful. Rather, they need to identify the metrics, or key performance indicators (KPIs) that will help them take action based on data and reach their business goals.
“It’s not so much about what the data is,” explained Ann Marinovich, VP of advertising products and strategy at Forbes Media. “It’s about what we’re all doing with it and how we harness that to help make informed business decisions.” Identifying goals and tying those goals to KPIs is a powerful way that publishers can capitalize on the data they collect.
Marinovich spoke during a panel called “Making Data Part of Your Culture,” at the Data, Insight & Revenue Summit in June. Her fellow panelists included Mark Lewis, VP of insider/strategic initiatives at IDG Enterprise, and Tricia Syed, VP of user marketing and marketing analytics at Penton. During the session they explained how their organizations chose company-wide and brand-specific KPIs. They also shared how they communicated these KPIs across departments and empowered their colleagues to quantify success.
Following are three tips the panelists offered to help publishers align KPIs across their businesses.
1. Identify what the data is for. Data doesn’t mean anything if it isn’t driving publishers towards a specific goal. For example, before a publishing company decides pageviews are the most important metric, business leaders should first decide what they are trying to accomplish. Do they want their brand to have the widest reach? The most engaged audience? Do they want to be able to promise a certain demographic to an advertiser? Knowing the answers to these questions will point to the metrics that are most important. “Publishers need to become really proactive and ask those questions and push to see the data before making those business decisions,” said Marinovich.
At Penton, Syed and her team created a data menu for their editorial teams. Penton serves a wide variety of markets and Syed wanted to let the content teams choose the metrics that made the most sense for their markets. “We came up with a menu of what we felt were the 20 most important metrics,” said Syed. “Do you want repeat visits? Do you want acquisition? Then we walked each of the content teams through those metrics and let them pick their top five. Then those top five became their goals and KPIs.”
2. Make sure every department understands the KPIs. The entire publishing organization must recognize and understand KPIs so that different parts of the business can work toward the same end goal. “It's about coming up with a goal as an organization and having everyone on the same page regardless of what department you sit in the organization,” said Marinovich. Communicating clear KPIs has already paid off at Forbes, streamlining how the publisher executes new initiatives. “[Having defined KPIs] really helped our development cycles and get new things out to market quicker and faster,” said Marinovich. “We stopped getting tied up with everyone looking at the success of a project in a different way.”
3. Keep internal reports simple. Most teams within a publishing house receive weekly or monthly reports about how certain brands are performing. But often these reports are too long or cryptic to understand and prevent team members from putting that data into action. Lewis recommended analyzing no more than five KPIs in a report, especially if it’s being delivered to a less data-savvy colleague. “I've cut down our newsletter reports to [measuring] subscribers, click-through rate, open rate, and clicks to the site,” said Lewis. “That just was much more digestible for the editors who aren't used to consuming all this data at once. Simplify and truncate your data. Figure out what's important and then send that out.”