Time Inc. Overhauls Analytics To Make Content Creation Data-Driven

Time Inc. knows that producing magazine content requires data – like seeing how many issues sell based on the cover story. But digital allows for an additional level of analysis the magazine-native publisher hadn’t fully embraced.

Which is why Time Inc. pruned down its more than five dozen analytics tools and focused on just a few, including Parse.ly, which it implemented over the past six weeks.

“Digital has a completely different level of insight, and that culturally is something we are trying to inoculate into the DNA of this organization,” said Time Inc. editorial director Will Lee.

Staffers in the editorial and audience organization can see every article published every day via Parse.ly, which focuses on insights for content creators. “Transparency is incredibly important, especially in an organization like ours with over 20 brands,” Lee said.

Having a unified analytics tool makes it easier to see the impact of product divisions.

Since implementing Parse.ly, Time saw page views on its publication People increase in the 60% to 70% range. The team attributes that increase to better insights through the tool, and to a change People made in how it displayed gallery stories.

“We can see our network at scale, and the results of certain decisions that teams make,” said Kerry Doyle, digital business market research and insights manager, who oversaw the analytics implementation.

The analytics tool moves data-based decision-making earlier into the creative process. In the past, the audience team would focus on promoting articles once they were produced. But Parse.ly provides both real-time and historical data about article performance that editors can use to shape a direction of a story.

For example, Parse.ly allows editors to analyze not just the popularity of a celebrity couple, but what angles intrigue readers.

“With Rob Kardashian and Blac Chyna, there are a lot of aspects to that story: legal ones, the relationship and the family aspect,” Lee said. “As ridiculous as it may sound on the face of that, Parse.ly allows us to look at every specific segments of that story and what is resonating.”

Having access to both real-time and historical data aids editors as they plan fresh angles for topics with evergreen and other interest. As editors plan coverage around the season premiere of “Game of Thrones” this Sunday, for example, they can look at what’s doing best recently as well as the topics that continually draw fans in to read articles.

The analytics tool allows editors to zoom in or out in ways that make the most sense to them. For example, the editors at People who oversee articles about royal families can look at all the relevant articles to figure out what stories to pursue.

Looking at historical data, those editors can look beyond the obviously popular – like the British monarchy – to other royal families readers have shown they liked. For example, the royal families in Japan, Sweden and Monaco also reliably draw in readers.

To bring editors and audience development team members on board, Time Inc. has conducted tailored trainings on the analytics platform for each editorial brand. While each team can see across other brands, most have their own KPIs to account for differences between them. The early embrace of the tool speaks to a changing Time Inc. culture, Lee said.

“We are a much more performance-driven culture than we have ever been before,” he said. “You can see it on their screens, on what people are showing each other on their mobile devices. It’s more of a part of the conversation than it’s ever been.”

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