Go to the home page of web analytics company Parse.ly and click on the first dropdown. The ‘Parse.ly Is For’ tab strongly suggests that the technology firm’s software platform is for everyone in your publishing business… the whole crew.
Parse.ly’s objective is to get all the departments in the publishing organisation – editors, product teams, data analysts, and business and sales executives – using the same analytics platform. “If one person is talking about Omniture and another Chartbeat, they’re not speaking the same language,” says Clare Carr, Director of Marketing for Parse.ly.
To bring everyone on-board, the company is focusing its analytics toolkit on ease of use and accessibility of data. While there might only be a few people ‘qualified’ to use some analytics platforms, Parse.ly aims to have hundreds of users in the largest publishers.
With a client list that spans Conde Nast Digital to Cheezburger, the rationale behind Parse.ly’s inclusive approach is simple. With digital first, or the shift from print to digital, there’s been a stark realisation that publishing people have break out of their silos and work together. “The goal is to reduce friction, to get people talking to each other,” says Carr.
But that can be difficult where there is no common context. “How do I talk to a web developer? How do I explain what the audience wants?,” she asks “People are scared that it looks like they don’t know what they are talking about and, too often, just stay quiet.” Carr believes audience data is a great starting point for that conversation; using common analytics, not as a judgement of what’s good or what’s bad, but as a way to talk about audience behaviours and develop content, product development and commercial strategies.
She contrasts this unified approach with publishers that still have different functions using different analytics tools, saying it makes no sense for a sales department to be using Omniture, but for editorial to have no access or to be just sent historic data. “Getting information two weeks after the fact, that boat has sailed.”
Carr also believes it’s a mistake to think that the only thing that matters is big numbers. She points out that Parse.ly delivers information at a tactical level, allowing users to see how a story is doing, who’s reading it, where are they reading it, how long for, did they share it where did they go next? “It’s not just about one break-the-bank number, it’s much more granular than that. Go and explore what the numbers are; are they more or less than you expected?” she says.
Using a single analytics platform doesn’t mean that every department ends up using the same reports – different roles can use different data views to suit their needs. Carr says the aim is to let people focus on what they do best – telling stories, creating storytelling tools, building better experiences, or actually selling the audience and their value.
Editorial people might use the dashboard, where product teams might use API data around personalisation and recommendations. Exec commercial teams that once only cared about the bottom line are realising that success is also about user experience. “Make stuff your audience will like and that will improve ROI,” says Carr.
Most often it is product development people or analysts that are first to come to Parse.ly; they introduce the software and push it to other departments. Editors have been perhaps the most difficult group to bring to analytics believing ‘we write what we know we should write’ and that analytics were an imposition.
Carr says the secret to winning over editorial teams has been to make analytics make sense in the editors’ language, showing them that the data is about the work they do and presenting information in a way that they can use it. “The back office is important,” says Carr, “we put a big premium on design and usability of information in every new version of the product.”
The latest version of Parse.ly’s software platform was released in January. Described as an ‘evolution’ by Parse.ly CEO and cofounder Sachin Kamdar, it incorporates a unified view of the modern online publishing enterprise, emphasising growth, engagement and loyalty.
Moving beyond page views and visits, additional metrics include average engaged time on a page, number of returning visitors, topics generating the most loyal readers and types of content generating the most growth in visitors. Device metrics show whether visitors are coming from desktop, mobile, or tablet, and can be customised to highlight specific models.
All the analytics provided by Parse.ly, from social media or search referral data to time spent on the page, are designed to help publishers understand why the audience is responding to their content the way it is. The company says it provides digital publishers with ‘clear audience insights’; the clever part is that it’s doing it in a way that that the whole publishing organisation can understand.