Learn from previous coverage to help plan future stories

In the wake of covering major events — like the G8 Summit, Fashion Week, or the World Cup — it’s good to look back and evaluate the performance of your coverage as a whole, while the editorial strategy behind its creation and rollout is still fresh in your mind. Doing so can give you key insights that will help you plan for your next big package of content.

Chartbeat’s Historical Dashboard is one of the best ways to perform that evaluation. Use it to swiftly pinpoint your most successful pieces, spot content that didn’t perform as well as you thought it would, and segment data to aid future approaches to coverage and its packaging for your audience.

Below, we’ve put together some tips to show you how to use the Historical Dashboard to gather insights from your data. From sports and politics to awards shows and music festivals, the strategies we suggest apply across any vertical of content. Read on, and share them with your team!

Drill down to the stories

First, you need to set the date range to the appropriate time period. There are two areas to examine: coverage before the event, and coverage during the event. Pick an area of focus and use the calendar picker to select the appropriate dates.

Pro tip: The Historical Dashboard holds data from the current month and the three preceding calendar months.

Next, you need to build a list of all the appropriate stories, filtering out the rest of your content. Often with big events, sites will create or use specific sections to classify stories. If your site used a “World Cup” section, for example, you can easily find it in your list of top sections. If not, you can always search for a more general section like “football.”

Pro tip: When you use the section filter, entries are ranked to prioritize sections with the highest overall engagement during the time period you’re investigating. If you don’t see the section you’re looking for, start typing and and the list will narrow itself down.   

Build a profile for success

Now that you have the correct list of stories, take a look at what rose to the top. Stories will automatically be ranked by their Total Engaged Time, to help you find stories that not only brought in a lot of traffic, but also held readers’ attention. Where did your readers devote the most time? But don’t just celebrate good performance — ask why these stories were successful. Since you’re looking at a single event, all the stories will have the same general topic but a different angle and approach. Ask questions like:

  • Was this story straight reporting, or did it have a more narrative style? How about the lede?
  • Was it a recount of events? A profile of an important person? An explanation of complex information like rules or historical background? Did it have information that was personally relevant to your readers (like how to watch the World Cup)?
  • How long was the story?
  • Did it have video, special visuals, or interactive elements?

Answer these questions and see which attributes the top stories have in common. Consider taking a similar approach the next time you cover a big story.

Traffic sources and frequency matter

Chartbeat’s research has shown that how a reader discovers your content can affect the type of stories that reader will choose. You may have different profiles for success per type of traffic — profiles may vary across sources like search, social, or direct (which means those readers typed in your URL or have your site bookmarked). A similar principle applies to reader loyalty. Visitors who are on your site for the first time in 30 days (categorized as “New”) might be interested in different types of stories than your loyal readers, who visit about every other day. Use the filters under the traffic graph to segment the top stories by traffic source, device, or loyalty type, and repeat the profile exercise above.

Why bother? Because it can help you make smarter decisions about your mix of content and promotion options in the future. Here are some suggestions for stories that fit certain profiles:

  • Social: Make sure those stories get heavier promotion than other types of stories.
  • Search: Spend some extra time thinking about SEO. Also, search stories tend to have a longer shelf life, so find ways to make these stories relevant days or even weeks after they’re published.
  • New: These readers are not familiar with the depth of your content. Add related links to these stories to display your stories and get new readers onto a second article — it makes it more likely that they’ll come back.
  • Loyal: Your loyal readers are more likely to find stories using your homepage than they are to find them through search or social. Advocate for homepage play when you see a story that fits the Loyal profile.

Look beyond the top

It’s great to celebrate good performance, but your biggest opportunity comes from troubleshooting stories that didn’t perform well. You can learn a lot and avoid the same mistakes in the future.

  • Were there any stories with a lot of pageviews, but low Average Engaged Time? Was there a better way to structure and curate that story?
  • Sort the list by Average Engaged Time and look for stories that did a great job of engaging readers, but maybe didn’t get the amount of promotion they needed to be successful. Advocate for those types of stories.
  • When you’re filtered on Social, do you see any stories that you promoted heavily, but didn’t get a lot of clicks back to the site? Review your posting strategy: timing, wording, platforms.

Share your findings

Pulling the data for analyses above is relatively easy in the Historical Dashboard. Setting new strategies based on the data may not be so simple. Involve your colleagues in the investigation, talk through the above questions, ask new questions together. Write up your findings and share them as widely as possible. It will be well worth the time spent when your next big event coverage rolls around.

Pro tip: Export the data for easier sharing or to save it for a later date. If you’re filtered on a section or other parameter, the CSV you download will be the exact same data you saw in the dashboard.

We hope these tips and suggested strategies help you get the most out of your Historical Dashboard. Did you find them useful? Would you like to see more content like this? Let us know!

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