Every day we’re reminded about the limited resources facing our industry, from the time people have to produce stories to the lack of insights we have about decisions made at the big platforms. There’s an irony then that it feels like there’s more data available to us than ever before. Yet many people still aren’t sure how to make the most of it.
Trying to improve business models, audiences, or content simply by adding more data doesn’t guarantee any success. Now, more than ever, the answer is finding the most relevant data—and making sure we’re uncovering all the available opportunities the data we have can provide.
Historically, some of this data has been hard to get to. The major technology platforms see it as theirs to wield. So, without major undertaking, it can be hard to piece the different types of data that audiences coming from Facebook, Google, your own editorial efforts, and untrackable sources actually show.
The Parse.ly data team, using Currents, looked at a recent major news story, immigration, as an example, to uncover opportunities for media companies that might have been missed in other data sources.
Finding the under-covered angle of the story
When Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy separated children from parents, #KeepFamiliesTogether picked up steam on social media. But how did that translate to attention for the articles publishers wrote, and what did people want to know more about?
Over the course of one week, June 18 – June 25, there were 590 articles about immigration getting attention in our network. And that attention was vast: 16 million views.
So many articles means the topic was well covered, right? Not necessarily. Take the topic of “asylum seekers” for example.
Only 20% of these stories were related to asylum seekers. However, they received over 30% of the attention. High traffic per story suggests this angle was potentially under-covered and under-promoted.
Understand the differences between referral types
So where exactly were people finding stories about immigration? The biggest source of traffic was social media, which drove one-third of traffic to immigration stories. Given how much the media industry talks about Facebook, this may not seem surprising. But this is actually about double the typical traffic the network sends to any given story. It also bucks the trend of Google as the dominant source of traffic.
Other important ways readers learned about this issue? Directly from news sites, no platforms needed. About one-quarter of the overall traffic to immigration articles was from editorial promotion: site homepages, section pages, and links within articles.
For the specific topic of asylum seekers, we looked at where else people talked about this topic:
Twitter sent almost as much traffic as Google to stories about this topic. And Instagram shows as a significant referral – one of the more surprising results of this data to me. With data about what’s relevant to readers right now, and where, teams can be more pointed in how they spend precious resources, including their time.
Narrow in on what topics matter to different localities
Where people are paying attention to stories doesn’t just apply to places on the internet—search, social, etc. Readers’ physical locations impact attention, too.
For stories about immigration, attention wasn’t at the same level across the entire country. Certain areas, including parts of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, over-indexed, represented by darker colors on the maps below.
Geographic data can also inform where a story gets distributed. If you’re pushing your immigration story out on Facebook and Instagram, geo-target cities or states where attention, and therefore interest, is already high. Or if your newsroom is part of a network that spans multiple regions, this information can help guide syndication strategy.
Don’t get more data. Get relevant data
It would be amazing if organizations had more of everything: more staff, more resources, more time, more universally accessible sources of data and information. But the reality is you have to pick and choose your data wisely. You need to use sources that can find opportunities for your site, instead of accessing the same list or information that everyone else uses can make the most of that data.
In the absence of time and resources, focus on making sure you have the right data at your fingertips. Pay attention to the data that’s relevant: what audiences care about right now, where they’re finding that information, what stories are related, and where the gaps are.