The Dutch analytics company smartocto recently began a special project around the content needs of visitors to news sites. With notifications via the smartocto platform, journalists receive tips to write stories from a different angle. The result is spectacular: more engagement, more loyal visitors and more page views, says Rutger Verhoeven of smartocto. In the MediaMatters radio show, he talked about the growing role of user data in the production of news.
The availability of data on reading and viewing behavior has not been a problem for editors for a long time. There is an abundance of data. But what use is all that data if you can't convert it into useful insights for editors? Rutger Verhoeven: "We want to move from data to action. We give news editors insight into how they can perform better. How they can be more relevant to their desired audience. For us, the main challenge is to bring that relevance to editors."
News Needs Notifications
A few months ago, smartocto launched the 'Triple N Project' (News Needs Notifications). Three customers are participating: the regional broadcaster Omroep Brabant, the Flemish newspaper De Morgen and the Indonesian news site IDN Times. The project is based on the ideas of Dmitry Shishkin, who is also directly involved. Shishkin championed the "User Needs Model" (see below) at the BBC Worldservice. Shishkin found out that the BBC was very focused on hard news while readers also needed other articles. They want to stay informed, of course, but are also looking for inspiration, diversion and want to learn something.
"70% of the output of the average newsroom falls into that 'keep me informed' category," says Rutger. "Yet those articles only account for 10% of online visits." Editors, he says, bring far too much factual news. "The audience also wants to know what's going on on social media, they want to know more about a certain topic, they want inspiration. We can identify these user needs based on our data, in real time. smartocto turns this into notifications for editors. We tip them to follow up on articles that really appeal to the audience from the perspective of a specific user need."
The preliminary results indicate that the notifications actually work. Rutger: "The editors responded to the notifications and started producing more inspiring and perspective-giving stories. What happened? Engagement, loyalty and pageviews went up. Omroep Brabant also made changes in the workflow. They now have two editors every day who have to write two stories from the perspective of user needs."
smartocto also saw conversion increase at the other participants in the project, says Rutger Verhoeven. "We know that articles written from a certain perspective can actually bring in more subscribers than other articles. We can help news organizations do that at author level, section level, and at channel level. That's really powerful. So we can say, on Facebook, you should write articles from a certain perspective, because that will bring in a loyal audience. And if they're on your own platform, you should write even more 'give me perspective' articles, because that can make them subscribers."
Soon, smartocto will publish the results of the Triple N Project in a white paper.
Listen to the entire interview with Rutger Verhoeven below.