Posts Tagged ‘wsj

17
Sep
10

News Sites Study Social Media Publishers Seek Insight on User Behavior; The Best Time to Send Out a Tweet

By JESSICA E. VASCELLARO

News organizations are getting more scientific about studying the value of the online readers they are hooking through social media services like Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc., as they seek new ways to exploit the channels without cannibalizing their businesses.

Kenneth Fuchs, an executive at Sports Illustrated, is studying the habits of the magazine’s Twitter followers.

Sports Illustrated is researching the habits of its 1.2 million Twitter followers through informal surveys and polls, and examining what they click on. Kenneth Fuchs, vice president of digital for Sports Illustrated Group, says he hopes the work will help the company build products that resonate with its core fans.

The Time Warner Inc. magazine is also tracking the impact of stories that spread virally, such as a recent project on the best NFL performers by jersey number.

At the Washington Post, managing editor Raju Narisetti says his team is looking for patterns that could illuminate whether certain types of stories are more appealing to audiences in social networks than on other sites but that it is “very early in the game.”

The paper, owned by Washington Post Co., has started compiling a daily tracking report showing what social networks are driving audiences to the Post and what those users are reading. “The cause and effect” of how an action from the Post, such as tweeting a story, affects the story’s viewership is still “fuzzy,” Mr. Narisetti said, “but over time, it will get better.”

The efforts come as publications are reporting surging traffic from social media, as they rush to load up their sites with new tools that encourage readers to share their content among friends on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Google and others.

Forty-two percent of social-networking users regularly or sometimes get their news through social-networking sites, according to a report released this week by the Pew Media Center. That is leaving some publishers with the sense that they are better off trying to reach users where they are congregating than trying to corral them on their site.

News companies have been pursuing a more metrics-driven approach to disseminating their stories for years. To date, they have often focused on quantifying the impact of search traffic, studying what keywords usually land people at their sites.

Now they are looking for similar patterns with social data, using it to attract new readers, better personalize their experience on the site and potentially target ads.

The television division of E. W. Scripps Co. has begun to closely monitor metrics, including how many people hide content the company pushes out through Facebook.

Like other publishers, Scripps creates fan pages for its television stations and updates the pages with links to content on their website. Those updates are sent to people who have become fans of the pages, but consumers can click an “x” in the corner if they don’t find it relevant.

“You can have a fan, but they are worthless to you if they hide your posts,” said Adam Symson, vice president of interactive for Scripps television division.

Still, some publishers remain cautious about tapping social networks too aggressively, wary that consumers are just grazing headlines without clicking through and that the publishers are giving up data, and potentially revenue.

In a recent survey of 100 online publishers, including traditional news organizations, more than 90% said they have concerns about integrating with Facebook, including how the social-network uses data about their content and who will benefit from long-term revenue. The study was conducted by research group Thinktank Research and sponsored by ShareThis, a social media and analytics company.

Justin Osofsky, director of media partnerships for Facebook, said the company is constantly listening to feedback from publishers, who are enthusiastic about doing more with the site. Facebook collects data about what articles people are sharing in order to post that content to their News Feeds and those of their friends.

A company spokesman said that nether Facebook nor advertisers use personally identifiable information about users who share articles for ad targeting. The company does allow publishers and others to access anonymous, aggregated data for analytics purposes.

Facebook is coaching news companies how to use tools such as one that allows them to analyze the demographics of users who become a “fan” of their page on the site.

Some publications are going a step further. The Economist, for instance, has begun using a service called SocialFlow to determine the optimal time for it to release tweets so that they’ll catch the attention of people following the magazine’s Twitter account.

SocialFlow Inc., a New York-based start-up, monitors what topics are being discussed in real-time on Twitter and other social-media services to determine when to release a tweet about a certain topic to increase the likelihood it will be clicked. The company charges $2,000 a month for a publication’s first Twitter account.

Washington Post’s Mr. Narisetti said he sees more ambitious uses of social data down the line, including looking at how many social referrals come from the Post’s own social-networking pages or from Facebook users who recommend a story on their own.

Write to Jessica E. Vascellaro at Jessica.Vascellaro@wsj.com




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