How Vice, Buzzfeed, and Cheezburger use data to get a competitive edge

by Allie VanNest, Head of Communications,  Parse.ly

As a digital publisher, you have a crucial weapon at your disposal in the fight to build readership and increase revenue: your data.

Data can provide critical insights to help publishers generate traffic and build long-lasting audience engagement, depending on their goals. In many cases, delving into data has even provided digital publishers with key insights upon which they have built — and grown — their sites.

Check out these tips from sites that have used insights derived from analytics to drive their success.

Learn What Loyal Readers Want

Vice, a media outlet focused on arts, culture, and news topics, used audience engagement data to build its YouTube channel to a whopping 20 million monthly video views. But many of Vice’s early videos floundered at first. It wasn’t until the publisher began growing its audience virally, using third-party platforms like Reddit, that it found success and an audience that it could sustain with its trademark long-form documentaries.

Originally anticipating that long-form video content would not be as engaging for audiences as short-form content, Vice was surprised to discover an average video watch time of more than seven minutes. Today, the brand is applauded as a frontrunner in video experimentation, and its audience is larger and more loyal than ever. Vice proved that long-form content can not only work, but it can dominate, on YouTube.

The key takeaway? Stick to your core competencies to maintain loyal readers.

Post Content That Resonates

As in Vice’s case, long-form content may keep readers on your site for more time; but, short-form content might be a great way for your site to drive social shares. Consider the meme.

Viral publisher Icanhas.cheezburger.com has become a giant publishing company with upwards of 50 sites and more than 400 million monthly page views — all derived from memes and macro images. It got there by tracking numbers. Using buttons like “What’s Hot” and “Most Shared,” Cheezburger was able to connect its audience to its most interesting content and grow internal referrals by 122 percent. And, in less than six months, social referrals drove 71 percent more traffic to the site as Cheezburger staff relied increasingly on analytics to track what content drove visitors to its site, and why.

As long as you consistently deliver clever content, you’ll have an opportunity to generate traffic.

Know What it Takes to Go Viral

With more than six billion monthly content views, Buzzfeed has found a way to consistently capture the interests of its target audience. It does this by tracking headline analytics, just one way for publishers to take a data-driven approach to viral marketing.

The Buzzfeed philosophy is pretty simple. If an article would be interesting to 10,000 people, the goal is to get it out to all 10,000. How do they meet that goal? An obsessive attention to detail and data helps Buzzfeed journalists and content creators optimize for their niche audience.

What can other publishers learn from Buzzfeed’s success? Maximize the reach of niche articles and keep the numbers front-and-center to get the most value from every published piece.

Most digital publishers use data, depending on their goals, to amplify their content, generate traffic, or encourage audience loyalty. By taking advantage of their own audience analytics, they are able to anticipate what types of content resonates most with their audiences and rapidly accelerate growth.

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