Giving New Framework to Old Metrics

April 2, 2015

Anyone who is in charge of content should be obsessed with metrics. The problem is, the industry as a whole can’t decide which metrics matter. There is a hazy sense of certain metrics being more important than others, such as downloads, shares, click-throughs and purchases.  But the lack of industry standards means some content creators struggle to keep up with this month’s favorite flavor of content platforms, tracking dashboard, and targeted audience behavior.

As a panacea, content publishers often turn to volume metrics as a sign of their content’s success. “Vanity” metrics, such as how often a piece is viewed or shared, are also used as evidence of a piece of content’s viability. But unless the metric is directly tied to a business goal, it remains vanity for the content creator and doesn’t add business value.

The Altimeter Group recommends a different approach. In a recently published report, they spell out a different framework for measuring the “real business impact” of content. They target six areas of business impact, including Brand Health, Marketing Optimization, Revenue Generation, Operational Efficiency, Customer Experience, and Innovation. While the entire report is a worthy read, things really start getting interesting when the Altimeter Group starts looking beyond the obvious impact metrics (eg: paid downloads for revenue generation) and starts talking about measuring the impact of Sentiment, Share of Voice, or Dwell Time.

Brand Health

“Brand health is a measure of attitudes, conversations and behaviors directed toward the brand. It can be expressed in sentiment, topic drivers, sharing behavior, likes, retweets, and other measures of interest and attitude.” – Altimeter Group
Content producers are typically focused on providing content that speaks to the target audience’s interests. They are concerned with what is being posted, what is being picked up, and what people seem to respond best to. Looking beyond the immediate and obvious concerns, however, is an underlying truth that every piece of published content says something about the brand. How the audience interacts with the content says something about the brand’s health.

Two typical KPI’s for demonstrating an awareness of and interest in a brand’s content is Engagement and Audience Growth. While these are solid markers of interest, the Altimeter Group suggests additional metrics:

Some of the raw metrics are the same as we’ve always seen highlighted: page views, shares, click-through by unit. But many are new – sentiment by channel, accelerating keywords, share of voice – and even more are a new way of applying current metrics to actual business impacts, such as influencers by topic indicated by followers and reach.

Marketing Optimization

“This is an umbrella term encompassing the many components that can improve existing marketing efforts and take them to the next level.” – Altimeter Group

While marketing isn’t necessarily at the forefront of a content publisher’s mind when creating content to engage their audience, but the role of content is changing across the board. For instance, magazines might have originally sought to entertain, engage, or encourage readers to sign up to receive more magazines. Now all content pieces pull double-duty as micro-marketing to drive audiences to engage with the brand on multiple platforms and with multiple technologies.

Core metrics used to gauge how well content works as marketers or drivers – as well as metrics for marketing driving audiences to pieces of content – include referral traffic, subscriptions, email sign-ups, and dwell time (or the amount of time spent in the content.) These pieces can highlight where your audience is coming from, which platforms generate the most traffic for you, whether your content promotes audience willingness to be contacted or marketed to, and the level of interest in your content pieces.

Altimeter takes this to the next level by encouraging content producers to consider how these micro-marketing channels actually save the business money. This is a new twist on the old drive to monetize content. While the obvious metric is tracking advertising revenue, Altimeter challenges content publishers to consider how content saves money by guiding the audience to conversions, by building a loyal following prepared to respond to the next call to action, and building positive sentiment for the brand.

The Altimeter Group does take time to discuss other revenue generation impacts of content in the next report category. They recognize this category as “one of the knottiest challenges” because of the difficulty in measuring revenue direct from content, especially across multiple apps, browsers, channels, content units and audiences. It is especially difficult to capture the impact of content across all the pieces of content a person will view during their entire interaction with the brand. They recommend businesses consider how content drives consideration, decision, reviews, ratings, and revenue.

They also discuss additional metrics and their corresponding business impacts, which is all available in their full report here.

Content effectiveness can only be improved if it is measured. Whether you’re trying to determine if your recent report is meeting the target audience’s needs or if your magazine has potential for growing a bigger audience, as a content producer, measuring metrics should be the foundation of all your content strategy decisions. Start by identifying the real business impact your content currently claims, and consider how you’d like to grow that impact. These become your goals. Then consider what metrics define the success or failure of your plan. For instance, an increase in shares and referrals can point to audience growth. Finally, start planning your content to match your desired metrics, and refine the process as results come in.

Measuring metrics is a long process, and creating a content strategy that puts metrics first is a unique blend of concrete facts and creative application. The Altimeter Group provided a great resource in their report, but for personal help in devising a strategy, consider partnering with a company that is in the same industry as your own, or who has experience in helping others like you succeed. Nxtbook Media provides strategic services, such as building metric reporting strategies, among others.


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