Measuring Up

Those of us who have been immersed in mobile app publishing on touchscreens since day one believe it is the future of content. You must creatively present mobile publishing apps that take full advantage of this format. But creativity alone will leave you talking to yourself. You must also leverage left-brain thinking, the polar opposite of creativity – and, for many publishers and editors, the polar opposite of fun. I’m talking about analytics, and believe it or not, they are not only interesting, but also easy to begin using. In fact, they can be downright addictive, if you are willing to take action.

In the short term, analytics play a critical role in bringing advertising dollars to the platform. In the long term, analytics allow mobile publishers to give customers exactly what they want when and where they want it, meaning you will gain readership.

Baseline analytics
In three years, there have been some truly incredible digital publishing innovations. But mobile publishing is still a tiny part of the industry from a revenue standpoint. Print publishers worry about deploying the resources necessary to design the mind-blowing content possible in tablet publications until they see a clear path to profitability. And when it comes to profitability, advertising still rules. Before advertisers can fully embrace mobile app publishing, they will require reliable ways to measure ROI. And, just as the medium forces content creators to think differently than they would in the print world, it also demands different measures.

Analytics makes this easy. There is however, inconsistency in what gets measured and how it gets characterized. In this piece I will out a few core metrics that some are trying to standardize, and then we’ll explore more detailed metrics that should help you get even stronger results. Here are five that are being piloted as possible standards in the US right now by the MPA:

Total Consumer Paid Digital Issues – The number of issues sold to an end user. Free issues don’t count

Total Number of Digital Edition Readers Per Issue – Unique readers who have opened an issue on a device for the first time

Total Number of Sessions Per Issue – The total number of sessions for all versions of the specified digital edition across all digital newsstands

Average Amount Of Time Spent Per Reader Per Issue – The total time spent across all measured digital issues divided by the total number of “unique readers”

Average Number Of Sessions Per Reader Per Issue – An audience/engagement metric, derived from the aggregate total number of sessions across all measured digital issues divided by the total number of “unique readers.” 


Once you master these basics, there are a few more analytics you need to consider. Most digital publishing platforms offer integrated analytics solutions that are initiated with a few clicks. But just like many things in life, they only work if you actually invest time to use the reports to drive app decisions. Data opens the door to creating more engaging digital publishing apps. Find a recent graduate who thinks like a writer but can handle browsing stats. Then start putting the puzzle pieces together. Translate that knowledge into positive content change by sharing with the whole team.
Here are a few key metrics I advise publishers to dig in on:

Average Time Spent Per Page – Time spent per issue is a good measurement for advertisers, but it is useful to your editorial team as well. Time yourself reading pages and then compare with average reader stats, (dashboards will bucket this information, such as how many people spent 2-5 minutes, or 10 minutes plus, for instance). This will quickly tell you what compelled and what really did not work. Experiment with length, headlines and design techniques to make the content more appealing.

Retention – Who accessed your app and when? For monthlies, there is a spike every four weeks. But since your magazine or content app is in daily competition with gaming apps, email and the Internet, the true winners figure out how to create content that keeps their apps appealing between formal issues. For instance, you could push more frequent content or include a web portal in the app. You should also note how many people drop off after one visit  – thats affecting your conversion and is a good stat to keep improving upon.

Daypart – What part of the day is the most and least busy for your app. This helps you publish at an hour when more of your subscribers are likely to open your app.
Links clicked – We all love the interactivity of mobile devices and no doubt you have numerous linked and “tappable” areas in your mobile app. We need to know which links get the most response, so measure those clicks to embedded movies, deeper content and interactive ads. If these numbers are too low compared to page views or other links in the issue, it means either that link wasn’t interesting or that people didn’t understand it was a link.

On a side note, be careful of over-designing and then confusing your reader. Circles, for example, feel very “tappable” to most people. If you are creating design elements that call out for clickability, but lead nowhere, you could turn some readers off. Conversely, readers often miss intriguing stories because they had no idea they should be clicking through. The design elements were not clear. Using analytics will help you determine both the right content and design elements to improve performance.
Country-level sales and usage – Would you do something differently if you found that 30 per cent of your readers were coming from Germany or the U.S.? We have seen some people create international additions based on discovery like this.

Gregg Hano is CEO of  content publishing platform, Mag+