Publishers paying to promote content on social platforms need to determine the return on their ad spend, just like marketers.
The sites Tickld, Clipd and Knowable, part of the “Pulse” division at publishing company Gateway Blend, rely on social platforms to distribute content. Gateway Blend used to optimize the ad campaigns for Pulse content with day-old revenue data and proxy metrics like page views.
The day-old revenue numbers predicted what articles made money with 90% accuracy, but the margin of error forced the company to be conservative about how much to spend on an article to achieve a positive ROI.
The lack of real-time data also meant it was slow to react to change. Some articles started out earning more money post-click than the publisher spent, but fizzled out. Other articles took off, but the social amplification team couldn’t quickly ramp up spend since it relied on day-old data.
So Gateway Blend joined Sortable’s private beta test 18 months ago for an analytics product designed to eliminate constant report pulling and, in the words of Sortable CRO Ryan Fuss, “bring content, marketing and revenue into one consolidated place.” Sortable Analytics became generally available earlier this month.
It wasn’t a new relationship. Sortable already had worked with the publisher to optimize its ad stack and header bidding setup. But Sortable Analytics lets Gateway Blend see revenue associated with individual stories, authors and subjects. And, most importantly, it can evaluate that revenue against its Facebook campaign budget.
“Within 20 minutes we can know if an article is losing money or making money,” said Sam Weltman, Pulse’s managing director. “We can change hundreds of bids today based on the UTM [urchin tracking module] reports. If we can see that increasing the bid by one cent gets the article more scale and still makes us money, we can do that.”
Accuracy jumped from about 90% to nearly 100%, allowing the group to take tighter margins on its ads for content.
“It helped us play the margin,” Weltman said. “If there is a 40% profit margin on an article, we can see what kind of scale we get if we make the margin 20%.”
Weltman’s team also can compare which headlines, images or targeting parameters brought the biggest audience and highest ROI.
And Pulse can place different audiences into tiers based on how engaged and profitable they are, and use Facebook Custom Audiences to promote articles to its most high-value readers.
The analytics tool has also informed article creation. Writers now know what kind of articles attract valuable audiences, and what kind of articles or themes advertisers avoid bidding on – which Weltman said lets Pulse create more brand-safe content.
Pulse’s writers have compiled a list of vocabulary to use or avoid based on brand safety findings.
Since Pulse implemented Sortable Analytics, it’s seen “huge RPM increases”, Weltman said, though the company declined to share more specific numbers.
“Everything we launch organically gets tested with 10 headlines and 10 creatives,” Weltman said, “and within 10 minutes we can find out the revenue, time on site and page views per session.”