How the South China Morning Post approaches their digital transformation

Following its high-profile shift from subscription-driven legacy newspaper company to reenergized digital innovator, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) has adopted the Chartbeat analytics suite to increase headline click-through rate, optimize their homepage and article pages, and evaluate real-time audience trends.

The benefits of Headline Testing

As one of the most active users of Chartbeat’s Headline Testing tool, the team takes advantage of Chartbeat’s multivariate solution to optimize its headlines for click-through as well as actual engagement with the articles after the initial click. Over a typical seven-day span, might run more than 160 tests that drive an average CTR increase of nearly 40 percent compared to original headlines in those tests. In one recent week, nearly 30 percent of headline tests resulted in an alternate winner, meaning a headline variant other than the one that was on the page before the test began proved to be stronger in terms of Clicks Per Minute and/or Quality Clicks (A unique Chartbeat metric for measuring clicks that result in at least 15 seconds of engagement).

“Headline Testing has grown massively in popularity among our editorial team, doubling tests month over month for the past quarter,” Head of Data Analytics Korey Lee said. “As data fluency is increasing culturally across the organization, our sub-editors and section editors are using Headline Testing to creatively and actively learn how to better engage with our readers. This is accomplished through the real-time data-driven evidence of the value of keywords, optimization, and audience-focused editing. The tool also enables operational collaboration between the digital editorial and marketing teams—rather than risking disagreement over how best to optimize a headline, we can simply run tests with multiple variations and let our users decide which version is more engaging.”

Following the reader journey on the SCMP homepage

On a curation level, homepage editors in newsrooms split between Hong Kong and New York City leverage the real-time click-through, engagement, and scroll-depth data provided by the Heads Up Display to take a two-prong approach to landing page optimization: they elevate over-performing content while optimizing the most valuable real estate on those pages.

“Based on various Chartbeat insights, we proactively execute one or more of the following initiatives: headline tests tailored for specific markets (local vs. broadly international vs. regionally-specific); add extra context to headlines/articles for international audiences; or optimize social media posts on the dominant point of entry,” online editor Brett McKeehan said.

“Furthermore, we’ve spent more time monitoring recirculation by improving and adding related links and other assets to underperforming articles. We’ve also found that testing different related links on high-performing stories can reveal relevancy and user interests more quickly.”

Understanding the nuances of their readers

From a data analysis perspective, utilizes the Real-Time Dashboard’s geographic filtering to evaluate content performance specific to the Hong Kong or New York bureaus. Additionally, the recent addition of running totals of cumulative Pageviews and Uniques to the Real-Time Dashboard allows to evaluate how content that might reach the Hong Kong audience first is performing and whether it should later be promoted to the New York audience.

“As a global media outlet with more than 80% of our audience outside of Hong Kong, Chartbeat has enabled us to test headlines targeted at different segments (e.g. highly localized for a Hong Kong audience vs. more general or contextualized for international audiences),” online editor Brett McKeehan said. This enables us to learn how to best frame our stories for the most active readers. Similarly, we can highlight various angles within a story to determine key areas of interest.”

While the digital transition is ongoing — SCMP recently unveiled two new verticals: Abacus devoted to coverage of China’s tech industry and Inkstone as a daily digest destination — the introduction of editorial-focused real-time analytics and optimization tools geared toward engagement have made a significant impact on SCMP’s daily workflows.

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