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Changing Priorities Ahead

By: Jim Sterne, Founder, eMetrics Summit

PrioritiesI found out this “Changed Priorities Ahead” sign in London meant the road was about to switch from a two-way to one-way street. I was reminded of it when I read James Robinson’s article Watching the audience move: A New York Times tool is helping direct traffic from story to story.

James Robinson is friendly, excitable, humorous and able to turn his laser-like focus to the numbers behind online behaviors at the drop of an hypothesis. As Director of News Analytics at the New York Times, he gets lots of opportunities.

The article itself is full of delicious diagrams like this one, tracing how people click from article to article as they read the news.

ChartJames walks through a case study of just how useful their new “Package Mapper” tool can be.

But the thing that got my heart racing was not the fancy diagrams (“We realize that for some newsroom staff, they are about as informative as a Kandinsky painting.”), but the premise upon which the tool was built.

Anybody in the ad-supported-content business is stuck forever on the horns of a dilemma: How do you reconcile high editorial standards with a business model predicated on generating more advertising real estate? How do you maintain your Grey Lady status as “the newspaper of public record” while noting that more people would rather watch Weird Al videos and people wearing GoPros jumping off buildings?

How do you get more pageviews without spreading each article over ten pages (Click for more!) or writing all of your headlines based on the Modern Headline Builder

Chart

Ask a different question

Instead of measuring success in terms of unique visitors, time on site or pageviews, the New York Times asked a much more interesting question. Rather than asking their writers to produce more viral articles or longer articles that would spread across more pages, they asked:

Would you please write articles that will get people
so much more interested in the subject that they would
want to read more articles about it?

A very simple twist on a very old problem.

If you want more people spending more time on your site, reading more articles, make the articles more interesting and write them in such a way that they literarily lead to a parallel exposé, editorial, slideshow, interactive feature, video, etc. Make the product more beguiling without pandering to the lowest common denominator.

Package Mapper, the Illuminator

Pulling up-to-date data directly from raw web logs, it’s a network diagram that shows editors exactly how readers are navigating through a package of related content — and helps make our coverage a better experience for our readers.

People start at different points and wander through content in different ways, but patterns emerge. They are unaware of content on the same subject matter that might have interested them.

One of the first things Package Mapper did was point an accusatory finger at the New York Times’ Content Management System which was falling down on the job of recommending related content.

Automating that connection between Package Mapper and the CMS is on the drawing board, but I was so impressed by the reframing of the question, that I asked James to present his progress at the upcoming Media Analytics Summit in San Diego in October.

Even without Package Mapper, I’m pretty sure you’ll be interested in the related content here:

Reg Button

October 13, 2014 - 2:01 pm

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