Leestijd: ca. 7 minuten

Dennis Mortensen (Ex Indextools & Yahoo Web Analytics) has developed a software solution that helps news publishers to increase their front page performance. People in the web/analytics business probably read his weblog or have seen him on stage and know he knows his stuff.  I´ve been keeping track of his whereabouts ever since we met at Indextools and wanted to share some of the great stuff he´s doing in this interview.

Noot van de redactie: Deze post is in het Engels zodat Dennis deze zelf ook kan teruglezen. Don’t worry, Bijgespijkerd blijft zichzelf en we hebben geen internationale ambities of pretenties. (Not yet, anyway…)

Your company, Visual Revenue, helps online media increase their front page performance. How does this work?

In short; Visual Revenue helps editors set a perfect front page, one that yields the maximum performance according to the publisher’s objective.

When you say online media, do you mean just newspapers and weblogs?

Any medium to large online media destination that publish on a daily schedule are a perfect fit with what we do – AND especially those who set their front page(s) today based on simple analytics data or no data at all. This includes:

  • Daily News (e.g. International, National & Local News, Business, Sports, Celebrity etc)
  • News Aggregators (Portals)
  • Magazines
  • Large volume Blogs
  • TV Networks

What is your definition of front page performance?

Any publisher should run his media destination with an objective in mind. This objective could be as simple as him wanting to maximize the amount of Article Views. We optimize towards the asked for objective; and if you want more Article Views, we’ll set a Front Page that helps you do that. If you want a higher level of engagement, we’ll help you set a Front Page that does exactly that. 

So performance for us is described and delivered as in generating MORE of what the publisher wanted in the first place. In simpler terms perhaps; when a reader goes to nydailynews.com and reads 3 articles yesterday, we want to set a front page so enticing that he ends up reading 4 articles today!

What’s the business case when working with your solution, how does this earn money for your clients?

  • Revenue opportunity; we generate this opportunity through e.g. an increase in page views. See how we get to $1,300,000 revenue opportunity in this Boston.com post of mine.
  • Cost saving opportunity; we provide an opportunity for the Editor to do the same task faster (to the point of full Automation) at a fraction of the cost.
  • On top of this, we are able to move the organization towards being slightly more data driven, as we have an ability to illuminate true performers and honest but unavoidable failures as well – NOT on page views!

Editors usually aren´t very prone on numbers, do they like working with your solution?

Firstly, we are very much a decision support system and this is a system that is designed to help editors make better decisions. We do not communicate in CTRs, PVv and other traditional Web Analytics Metrics, nor do we present data for which they are supposed to create insight. We provide direct recommendations on what content goes where and the value of that recommendation. I would like to believe that this removes some of the potential anxiety of trying to guess the perfect front page 100 times a day as an editor, and move editors towards a calmer better performing setting. So to answer your question; they love it, because we’ve created this for them specifically! 🙂

Is this something the market was asking for or are you busy convincing publishers they need this?

This is a decade old process, setting the front page throughout the day, which was already in place, but entirely human driven. In that regard, we have not spent much time convincing publishers of the importance of the task, but more on how we can provide such a substantial lift to their current article traffic.

Can your solution be compared to Google optimizer or other testing solutions?

No. Just like we are not out to replace your traditional web analytics solution, we are not out to replace your traditional testing solution.

We are all about being able to provide recommendations on the future performance of Content – in particular for news media companies!  This might sound like any other retail recommendation firm out there, but think about the complexity of doing Predictive Analytics for Media versus that of doing Predictive Analytics for Retail.

When an Article is born, in particular in news media, the value of it decreases from that moment on forward – and not only that, the lifespan is exceptionally short. Compare this to a retail product where you don’t necessarily have to promote the product instantly and reap in the cost over e.g. 10 hours.

This provides an interesting challenge when doing predictive analytics for media, which is that you have to provide a first set of recommendations very rapidly and on very little training data. In Retail you have a plethora of past data, and the present (now) is important, but not necessarily overly important compared to 1 hour from now, and finally, there is a long and prosper future ahead, where we have plenty of past data to work with.

This concept of time abundance in retail optimization, explains why you can allow yourself to do landing page optimization on products pages, but rarely on individual article pages (layout yes, content no) etc. I’ve written about this challenge of Predicting the future performance of Content – versus a Product in a post not long ago.

You have de Telegraaf as a very prominent customer, what type of customers are you aiming at?

That is exactly the type of the customer we are looking for and I would probably allow myself to call them large (based on volume and sophistication), but we are still very keen to speak to medium sized media properties.

What are the challenges your company is facing this year?

Finding enough highly qualified software engineers, Data modelers and smart people in general who understand the media space in great detail.

Does your solution also work for iPad and other screens?

The solution is device independent, so in that regard, we have the option to recommend how you set your front page for your iPad or iPhone editions for that matter.

What does a publisher need to get started?

Technically; he needs to do nothing more than that of installing a plain vanilla reader response tracking script in the header (or footer) of his web property.

More about Dennis Mortensen and Visual Revenue.

Over de auteur

Michiel is business manager bij FinchLine social media monitoring & analyse, en geeft bedrijven data-gedreven marketing inzichten vanuit SallyKnows.

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