How ALM Used Data to Create a 24-Hour Newsroom & Improve Content Distribution
Many publishers approach online content creation similarly, with journalists publishing new content based on internal deadlines instead of shaping that content based on when and how readers want to engage with it. The leadership at ALM believed the company could improve engagement and monetization by aligning its content creation with user behavior. At the Data, Insight & Revenue Summit in June, ALM chief digital officer David Saabye explained how a deep analysis of ALM’s traffic revealed that users visit ALM’s legal sites more at certain points in the day and engage with different types of content depending on when they visit.
“As we look through this data what we see is that we are not necessarily capturing the interest of the audience and matching that with the type of content that we are publishing,” said Saabye. So at the end of 2015 ALM began to restructure how it publishes content with the goal of improving reader engagement across its legal sites and newsletters. He added that ALM essentially adopted the mindset of a 24-hour news channel, which creates programming that cater to viewers’ moods and consumption habits throughout the day.
To better understand how users are reading ALM content, the publisher compared when content is published on its legal sites with average site traffic over a 24-hour period. The graph above reveals the incongruity of ALM’s publishing schedule and audience reading habits. It became apparent that the publisher was not distributing content when it was in the greatest demand and was missing out on opportunities to maximize reader engagement.
Parsing the data even further, the team identified five distinct time slots when the ALM audience reads content, each of which are characterized by different behaviors. For example, during the early morning time slot between 6AM and 8AM, readers want to read the top headlines, tend to access content through their mobile devices, and spend less than a minute reading that content. On the other hand, once ALM readers are at work, they read predominately on their desktop and will more likely spend time reading a longer piece of content. With these different time slots in mind, Saabye said ALM began thinking about its content like a broadcast news channel, offering different types of stories depending on when viewers tune in.
In light of these insights, ALM restructured its newsroom and rolled out a new content distribution strategy in June. Using its global team of journalists, based in London, New York, San Francisco, and Hong Kong, ALM now supports a 24-hour news cycle. For example, London-based journalists report on U.S. legal news and package that content for the U.S. audience to consume late at night or first thing in the morning, said Saabye. “The concept of deadlines is relative because with digital publishing you are publishing throughout the day,” he added.
While the new newsroom structure is still in its infancy, Saabye said that early analysis indicates this shift will have a positive affect on ALM’s core KPIs, such as open rates, clickthrough rates, and engagement with ads.
“The whole point is rethinking not just what, when, and how [we publish], but the whole package and using data to re-digest something that we've been doing as publishing companies for the past couple hundred years. Now we’re doing it with a much more scientific approach,” said Saabye.