A new app for The Economist

Serving readers the stories they want, when and how they want them

I am delighted to tell you about the new mobile app for The Economist, which we have just released for iPhone and iPad. It is the first major change to The Economist on mobile in almost eight years: when the original Digital Editions Economist app was released in 2010 the iPad was brand new, and at that stage the success of the iPhone and its app ecosystem was not yet guaranteed. Continue reading “A new app for The Economist”

Why Slate Picked Engaged Time as Their North Star Metric

To get all the details on how Slate became a loyalty powerhouse, check out this case study.

On their 20th birthday last September, the digital magazine Slate reported 17,000 paying subscribers for their membership program, Slate Plus. Today, that number is at 35,000. The surge in subscribers owes in part to the Trump bump—Slate Plus membership jumped by 46% after the election. But the underlying catalyst is that Slate has gone all-in on loyalty to lower their dependence on platforms like Facebook and monetize their incredibly loyal audience. By launching new podcasts (and using them as platforms to promote Slate Plus), revamping their newsletter, and doubling down on comment moderation, Slate has committed to creating engaging content that keep readers coming back.

Continue reading “Why Slate Picked Engaged Time as Their North Star Metric”

Why Having a Diverse Team Will Make Your Products Better

By MODUPE AKINNAWONU

In March, The New York Times published an article about how hard navigating the subway can be in a wheelchair, and it touched me a lot more than I thought it would when I started reading it. Months later, it’s still on my mind. The piece was penned by Sasha Blair-Goldensohn, an engineer from Google who had an accident that left him partially paralyzed. As he started navigating the city on wheels he discovered that “inflexible bureaucracies with a ‘good enough’ approach to infrastructure and services can disenfranchise citizens with disabilities, many of whom cannot bridge these gaps on their own.”

Most subway stations in New York are not wheelchair accessible, and the ones that are often have broken elevators that can leave commuters stranded above or below ground. I’d like to imagine what the considerations for how to build an accessible subway system would be if there were more people with disabilities on the teams that make these decisions. It seems like more thoughtful accessibility would make everyone’s experience with this public product better.

It’s so exciting for me to see the ways in which the conversation about diversity and its impact on product development is accelerating. Diversity comes in many forms, and can include characteristics that are innate or acquired, such as country of birth, being multilingual, degree of abledness, race and socioeconomic background, among others. Having less homogenous teams makes us more innovative, can make us smarter and increases profits.

Product Successes

The variety of perspectives that come from diverse teams help make products stronger, and ultimately serve users better.

Companies with more women are more likely to introduce radical new innovations into the market (hello, Rent the Runway and Stitch Fix!) and companies with a culturally diverse leadership team are more likely to develop new products.

Slack celebrated their diversity very publicly last year when they sent four black female engineers to accept their award from TechCrunch for fastest rising startup.

Sallie Krawcheck started Ellevest in response to an investing industry that was primarily “by men, for men” and kept women from achieving their financial goals. Halla Tómasdóttir steered financial services firm Audur Capital through the financial storm in Iceland by applying traditionally “feminine” values.

And after almost 60 years, Barbies finally come in different shapes, sizes, skin tones and eye color in an effort to attract a wider demographic and increase sales.

Product Failures

Without diverse perspectives and experiences in designing, building and testing, products can and will fail female and minority users.

Some of the first air bags to be installed cars failed to protect women because they were built to men’s specifications, tested with male crash test dummies, and didn’t take the female anatomy into account. The first voice recognition programs didn’t recognize female voices or many accents because they were built and tested by men and native English speakers. You may remember Google Photos’ image recognition software labeled two black people as “gorillas.” When Apple first launched their Health app, there was one glaring exception to their promise to “monitor all of your metrics that you’re most interested in”: it didn’t track menstruation. And some phones are even too big for women’s hands.

Remember Microsoft’s paperclip office assistant? The company spent $100k on market testing and ignored female participants’ feedback that the characters were too male (90% of women didn’t like the characters). The reaction was largely rejected because the men leading the project couldn’t see the issue themselves; they shipped the product with 10 male characters and 2 female characters.

One of the hardest things to remember when building products is that you are not your user.

Tips for Building Better Products

Staffing teams with people who think differently from one another can remind us of our blind spots and hopefully lead us to better solutions for all users. Here are some things you can do to make better products:

  • Great products start with great teams, so ensure you have a diverse team to design, build and test your products.
  • Create spaces that guarantee everyone’s voice is heard by remembering that not everyone likes to speak up in meetings. Set agendas ahead of time so everyone can contribute; create space in group meetings for individual brainstorming; and provide other channels for feedback.
  • Cultivate an environment that includes psychological safety: this allows team members to take risks and speak up when they have novel or particularly unorthodox ideas.
  • Talk to users! If organizing in-house user testing is too difficult, ensure users can submit feedback via email and then make sure time is dedicated to reading some of their responses. Regularly check the public feedback you get in Google Play or the App Store. To make keeping up with these messages simpler, consider setting up a bot that sends these messages to a Slack channel.
  • Reading user feedback makes it harder for you to ignore user needs that you don’t personally feel. It can be easy to make assumptions when building a product, but listening to users whose experiences are different from your own can highlight issues you may not have encountered.

With a less homogenous mix of voices at the table, imagine what we can build! If you’re hiring for digital teams and having trouble figuring out ways to diversify your staff, there are numerous organizations you can partner with, including Coalition for Queens, Code 2040 and Power to Fly.

Modupe Akinnawonu is a product manager at The New York Times. She focuses on their Android news app, among other projects.


Why Having a Diverse Team Will Make Your Products Better was originally published in Times Open on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

HTTPS on NYTimes.com

By EITAN KONIGSBURG and VINESSA WAN

We are thrilled to announce that we have begun to enable HTTPS on NYTimes.com, an effort that helps protect the privacy of our readers and ensures the authenticity of our content. This is a significant milestone in the 21-year history of our website, and though it’s taken us some time, we are very excited to share this wit our readers

What’s included?

NYTimes.com consists of millions of pages, so we’ve prioritized HTTPS for areas of our site that receive the most visits. You should already be seeing a padlock next to our URL in your browsers on the following:

What Does This Mean for You?

  • Improved privacy: HTTPS encrypts the data sent between your computer and our servers, making it more difficult for a third party to monitor what you are doing. While HTTPS will not hide the fact that you are visiting NYTimes.com, it will significantly diminish the ability of a third party, such as your internet provider, to see which articles you are reading.
  • Authentic news: Another benefit of HTTPS is that it validates that your computer is communicating with the website you intended to reach, and that any data you receive has not been modified in-transit. When you see the padlock in your address bar, the browser has validated that you are getting authentic NYTimes.com content.
  • Enhanced experience: Some newer web technologies are only made available to HTTPS pages. As we implement HTTPS, we are able to take advantage of these features to make our pages load faster, create innovative interactive projects and provide more personalized content.

HTTPS for the News

The benefits of HTTPS that we wrote about in 2014 remain relevant today. Other media companies have migrated to HTTPS: The Washington Post, Wired, BuzzFeed, The Guardian, and most recently, Quartz. (For more information, the Freedom of the Press Foundation launched a service to track HTTPS implementations on many major media sites.)

It’s been a complex undertaking for us and we’ve discovered a lot in the process. We’ll be sharing a deeper dive into the technical aspects and the challenges we encountered on our journey to HTTPS.

What’s Next?

This is just the beginning, and we intend to bring the rest of our site under the HTTPS umbrella. There is still a significant amount of work remaining, but we are committed to seeing it through. Securing our site is good for our users and the right thing to do. Our core purpose as a company is “to enhance society by creating, collecting and distributing high-quality news and information.” We believe the implementation of HTTPS furthers this purpose.


HTTPS on NYTimes.com was originally published in Times Open on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Changelog: Power Your Distribution Strategy with Campaign Tracking

This post summarizes our latest software release and will be mostly interesting to current Parse.ly users. Not a Parse.ly user? See the full dashboard here.

“If you build it, they will come” only works for Kevin Costner.

For marketers with digital audiences, just as much effort has to go into distributing content as creating it (sometimes more!). Readers may find content on their own in search results or on social networks, but deliberate efforts of social media managers, audience development experts, and newsletter editors make sure discovery isn’t left to chance.

Yet there’s a disconnect between the metrics that indicate how an audience engages with content and the way we track promotion.

While publishers (like Slate) have started to consider a broader suite of metrics to understand their audience, marketers spend most of their time in tools that emphasize opens, clicks, and impressions—divorced from any data on how long their audience actively read or watched content after clicking through.

Now you can use UTM parameters to track distribution efforts right alongside content performance in the Parse.ly dashboard.

What can I use campaign tracking for?

Here are just a few ways campaign tracking can help you understand what is and isn’t working in your distribution strategy.

What content resonates with newsletter subscribers?

You may already look at Top Posts in Parse.ly to decide what to include in your newsletter. Now you can single out traffic from a specific newsletter to see which posts held your subscribers’ attention.

Switching metrics can yield surprising results. Watch how “Picking a cloud database for analytics: the SQL options” rises to the top when the metric switches from Visitors to Time Engaged.

With this feedback loop in place, you’ll only get better and better at recognizing the stories that matter to your subscribers.

How long do visitors stay after clicking a Facebook ad?

Facebook reports on what happens before someone clicks through a boosted post or a news feed ad: reach, impressions, and clicks.

With Parse.ly, you can see how long someone stays engaged after the click. Did the post match the expectations set by the headline and image on Facebook? Which ads were best for keeping readers around and which made them bounce immediately?

Showing how long visitors engaged with content after clicking on different Facebook ads.

Which distribution efforts are better at fostering loyalty? Acquiring new readers?

Where you distribute content matters. Take a look at what happens when we compare average time for new visitors and returning visitors who came to the Parse.ly Blog through a Buffer campaign.

New visitors stay engaged for roughly the same amount of time whether they come from LinkedIn or Twitter. But returning visitors engage for over a minute longer when they click-through a Tweet instead of a LinkedIn post. In this case, LinkedIn might be better for driving new leads than it is for encouraging visitors to come back.

Knowing where to reach a specific audience lays the foundation for more targeted campaigns in the future.

How do I start tracking campaigns?

If you’re not currently tracking campaign parameters, get started with this best practices guide.

Parse.ly collects campaign data from UTM tracking codes (and other parameters) attached to the end of your URLs. If your organization is already tagging URLs with parameters like utm_campaign or utm_medium, your campaign data will automatically show up in the dashboard.

Still scratching your head? We’re hosting a webinar on May 10th to walk you through campaign tracking in the dashboard and answer all your questions! RSVP for the webinar.

Campaign tracking is available to customers on the Analytics Tier. Contact your success manager to set up campaign tracking and learn how to do more with your audience engagement data.

Notice anything else new?

The main navigation has moved to the top so there’s more room to display your data. The context of the page sticks with you as you scroll. Click the bar to jump back to the top of the page.

Now you can log into Parse.ly using your Google account (if your company is using Gmail). One less password to remember!

We always want to hear what you’re jazzed (or not so jazzed) about in Parse.ly. Drop us a line anytime.

The post The Changelog: Power Your Distribution Strategy with Campaign Tracking appeared first on Parse.ly.

Video Analytics: “An Offer You Can’t Refuse”

Watching a movie is a very different experience than reading a script.

Think about that memorable scene in The Godfather where Peter Clemenza orders his henchman to carry out a hit on another character that betrayed Don Vito Corleone. Clemenza’s original line was “leave the gun,” but the actor improvised by adding, “take the cannoli.”

“Leave the gun; take the cannoli” has since become one of the movie’s more quotable lines, but it is noticeably absent from the screenplay.

How Digital Publishers are “Leaving the Gun” and “Taking the Cannoli” with Video

We know that any successful content strategy hinges on an ability to identify what types of content resonate best with our audience (“leave the gun”), and then to make unique — sometimes off-script — decisions about how, and where, we present this content based on the data (“take the cannoli”).

Some online media companies are turning to video content as a way to “take the cannoli.” Austin Smith, CEO at Alley Interactive, a digital agency working with top publishers, has said: “Digital publishers are relying more and more on video, not just to improve engagement and bolster revenues, but to tell better stories.”

Vector Media Group’s Matt Weinberg elaborates:

“Digital publishers are using video to help their audiences better understand and engage with the topics they’re publishing information about. In many cases it’s being used to augment written content. Video isn’t just live action or interviews; things like video infographics and explainers are also very popular.”

Using Data to Improve the Success of Your Video Content

Relying on video without the data to back it up is a good example of improvisation gone wrong — of creating content that doesn’t make sense in the context of your editorial strategy. Nieman Lab reported that “news organizations have been producing loads of video content to fill social media feeds and attract higher ad rates,” while a recent post from Poynter said that media organizations hail “video ads as a possible remedy for the digital advertising slump.”

But video is not a silver bullet to monetization.

In fact, according to Parse.ly’s most recent Authority Report, video may not be as popular with viewers as it is with advertisers because audiences are engaging with video much less than with other content types. Instinct tells us to jump in with both feet and try to produce different types of video until something sticks; after all, if we know which written posts are most engaging for our audience, we can extrapolate what types of videos will work best, right?

Wrong. Just because publishers are producing videos does not mean that people are interested in viewing them. And because video is so expensive to produce, online media sites need to ensure that their video efforts are justified. The best way to create impactful video content is to look to your audience to see what they are interested in watching, and why.

Introducing Video Analytics for the Parse.ly Dashboard

Today, Parse.ly officially introduced its video analytics feature, which was previously available in beta. Video analytics gives digital publishers and brands a 360-degree view of their content — including video content alongside text-only posts in our intuitive dashboard.

See the Full Press Release Here

At Parse.ly, our mission is to help anyone who produces content online to develop a complete picture of their content strategy — no matter what form their posts take. Our video analytics feature allows content creators to analyze the full spectrum of content they create so that they can finally understand which videos are most engaging and adjust their video strategy as necessary.

It allows them to “take the cannoli.”

Looking to Analytics as a Foundation for Your Video Strategy

How can online media companies reap the perceived rewards of video while creating the useful, engaging content their audiences desire? The key to any effective content strategy that includes video is to look at the data:

  • Are video posts more successful than text-only posts?
  • If you include more than one video in a post, which video performs better?
  • Which video topics resonate with your audience?
  • Are certain sections of your site more conducive to video content?
  • Where are your readers engaging with video, and why?

The questions above are a good starting point to learn what’s working — and not working — with respect to your video strategy. Data is increasingly becoming a top priority for digital newsrooms, who are encouraging writers, editors, freelancers, and others to understand and work with it. Video analytics is an extension of Parse.ly’s core analytics product, and it democratizes data by making it available — and actionable — to everyone.

Interested in learning more? Contact Parse.ly today for more information about our video analytics feature.

The post Video Analytics: “An Offer You Can’t Refuse” appeared first on Parse.ly.

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