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10 ways you can use data like Mashable, Upworthy, BuzzFeed and College Humor

Everyone wants to know the secret to attracting and keeping audiences on their site. BuzzFeed, CollegeHumor, Upworthy and Mashable have gotten a lot of attention for their fast growth, millennial audiences and innovative approach to integrating analytics into their operations.

For these sites, collecting and accessing data is just the beginning; the real power comes from how they each apply it to grow their audiences and to help their organizations’ overall strategies.

We asked four digital media rock stars from each website to share ways they use data as part of a series Parse.ly put together on demystifying data for digital media sites. Each person answered us with a list, because, why not? Here we share their top ten insights.

  1. Interesting is out, actionable is in
    Actionable_Data
    Ed Urgola, Director of Marketing at Upworthy made this point clear: Upworthy doesn’t use analytics for a “pat on the back” and they don’t treat it as something pretty to look at. All of their analytics exist to make help their team take action and improve.

  2. We are all Iron(persons)
    Become_Ironpeople
    Upworthy doesn’t lock data behind analysts, they allow their whole team to access what’s important to do their job better. Though some of their team does do more data analysis than others, the ability to have common information across the company allows for more transparency, collaboration and a better understanding of how to reach goals.

  3. What’s popular with your audience vs. what’s popular with everyone
    Content_for_Audience
    Ricky Van Veen, co-founder of CollegeHumor, said that just because there’s a trending story in the news, that doesn’t mean it’s going to work for their audience. Their editorial team using data and analytics, among other things, to understand who their readers are and make sure the posts they create stay relevant to the brand and humor.

  4. Content as a bumper sticker
    Content_as_bumpersticker
    For CollegeHumor’s audience, easily digestible and sharable content turns all of their readers into potential distribution sources. How do they take advantage of that? Van Veen said that people share content that they want to say something about themselves.

    “Social content is the new bumper sticker” – Ricky Van Veen, co-founder, CollegeHumor

  5. Resources make you pick the best platforms for your audience
    Traffic_vs_Distribution
    Even CollegeHumor has resource constraints, Van Veen emphasized the need to focus on networks that build distribution and audience, instead of those that might get huge page views but won’t send readers that would come back again or share content.

  6. Use data to see what’s rising quickly
    Mashable's Velocity
    Ashley Codianni, the Director of News Video at Mashable, showed off the site’s proprietary “Velocity” platform, saying that being able to find content before other sites have helps Mashable’s team focus editorial attention. She compared being able to see story trends early was a similar advantage to seeing trends in stocks early, “Buy low, sell high.”

  7. Go to the readers
    Mashable-distribution
    Codianni’s team spends time creating packaging and distribution that will reach their potential readers where they already spend time.  They use Snapchat, Vine, Instagram and other new social platforms, as well as incorporate lots of video, making their stories visually appealing while providing valuable updates on breaking news.

  8. A-B test in real-time, but…
    A-B-testing_BuzzFeed
    BuzzFeed’s Managing Editorial Director Summer Anne Burton encourages real-time testing for the best headlines and pictures,but she warned that anyone using these results should remain cautious about over-optimizing. She said editorial and human judgement still tops A-B testing.

    “It may be true that the headline ‘A Shark is About to Attack you right now!’ will have a higher click-through rate, if the story on the other side doesn’t match, your readers aren’t going to come back.” – Summer Anne Burton, Managing Editorial Director, BuzzFeed

  9. Look at very specific habits
    Micro-Sharing
    BuzzFeed found that readers weren’t just sharing stories on social networks, they were sharing individual pictures from those stories. This spurred them to start adding headlines, captions and context within their images not just in the article text.

  10. Always keep experimenting
    BuzzFeed-Innovation
    Burton talked about the origin of the BuzzFeed quiz. Though they didn’t yield the metrics they wanted at first, over time they experimented to find ways to make them more successful. If you never give readers anything new to delight or surprise your readers, you won’t have anything new to test!

Want to see more about the tips they shared with the audience? Check out the hashtag, #makingdatatalk.