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Things That Look Easy on the Internet, But Aren’t

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Source: Thom Weerd

As a digital publisher, how hard can it really be to grow your business on the Internet?

The process is simple: Generate traffic through various third-party distribution platforms, build audience loyalty with solid content, monetize, then sit back and enjoy steady growth. It sounds simple, but — like most things on the worldwide web — it’s easier said than done.

Let’s take a look at some things we typically assume are easy for digital media companies to accomplish on the Internet, but actually aren’t. By knowing what you’re up against, you can understand how to create and execute a strategy that helps you to proactively overcome obstacles and propel your organization to success.

“Counting” Data

Typical database management problems, such as fault tolerance and data distribution issues, may seem commonplace for digital publishers; but, many actually have a difficult time making their data truly accessible through a simple query. To address this problem, Parse.ly introduced Mage, a backend capable of powering our large analytics dashboard.

Just look at how much data Parse.ly is processing! In order to gain insights from the data, Parse.ly needed architecture that enabled us to understand more dimensions about the data we collect. In real time, Mage has been able to provide just that, supporting metrics like:

  • Social shares each hour
  • Benchmarking for all metrics
  • Breakouts by visitor loyalty
  • Engaged time (“attention minutes”)

Mage’s data scheme can satisfy all important queries, and makes it much easier to create actionable insights for digital publishers. In using Mage to make it easier to “count” data and to query it, Parse.ly is helping digital publishers to solve a tough problem on the Internet in a way that looks easy.

Forming Meaningful Insights

There are many reasons why an analytics program can fail, from not considering the right metrics to not hiring the right people. For many media companies, though, failure comes down to not defining clear goals and a lack of quality leadership.

The key to success is for company leaders to encourage a data-driven culture that makes it easy for employees to make informed, actionable content decisions. There are many ways to build such a data-driven culture, including democratizing data so that it is accessible for everyone, hosting an internal blog where team members write about data, and actively discussing data around the office and at meetings. These canĀ encourage basing decisions on facts — and motivating leaders to follow the data, not their gut.

Monetization

Keeping your readers happy is crucial to keeping them loyal. But how can digital publishers pay the bills with page views? There are many ways media companies can generate income, but the truth is that it is very difficult for digital publishers to consistently grow revenue.

One way is through sponsored content, which looks like original content from your publishing site but actually provides a favorable perception of a certain brand. Affiliate marketing–or marketing another company’s products for commission–is another way to earn, but it has to be done subtlety, as readers don’t want to feel pushed; for instance, Apartment Therapy does a good job of this by modifying links so that they have affiliate tracking codes. Native advertising is a go-to option for publishers looking to build revenue as well; for this, brands essentially pay to provide useful and engaging information in the same format as the platform upon which it is displayed.

If you can count data, form meaningful insights, and monetize your strategies, your media company will have tremendous success on the Internet. Unfortunately, this is not always easy to do. To overcome obstacles, you not only have to realize why others have failed — you need the technological tools, company culture, and like-minded people.