Nuts & Bolts - Case Study: U-T Makes Digital Look Good on Paper
About two years ago, U-T San Diego had a problem any publisher would love to have—let alone a 146-year-old legacy print publisher.
"We were running out of ads," says Joseph Gordon, research director at the news organization. "Our salespeople were coming to us and saying, 'Hey, we want to book this.' And I'd say, 'Sorry, there's no inventory left.' And every time we turn away an advertiser or money, it's obviously a big issue."
Advertisers want above-the-fold displays on the home page or in a popular section, Gordon says. Fortunately for him, when he joined the news organization in June 2011, U-T was switching its software from a high-maintenance, expensive system that lacked trained personnel, to a more intuitive analytics tool from San Diego-based multichannel marketing analytics software provider Anametrix.
That meant he could not only figure out how to implement a paywall, but he could help U-T increase above-the-fold options in high-demand categories and, thereby, gain more ad revenue.
U-T uses Anametrix for data warehousing, heavy-lifting analytics and real-time, granular reports on ad and editorial performance. Editorial staffers use tools from New York-based Chartbeat for real-time analytics-allowing U-T to adjust its index pages with popular content.
Tracking the data, Gordon found he could add to the number of pages for entertainment, community and high school sports, which upped pageviews and above-the-fold ad inventory.
Gordon says, in line with reader interests, U-T reallocated authors to those expanded topics. Authors increased traffic 15 percent and pageviews 24 percent from 2012 to 2013.
"If their traffic went up 15 percent, I already have 15 percent more inventory," Gordon explains.
Also during 2012, he used analytics to find the 15-page paywall threshold. Messing that up could've
Since the paywall came online on June 21, 2012, U-T has gained about 11,000 digital-only subscribers and 170,000 who bundle it with print subscriptions.
Finally, U-T had to improve its ad reporting and pricing. The Anametrix software allowed U-T to provide advertisers with real-time reporting. U-T could also A/B test or adjust geographies, demographic targeting or creative to improve advertisers' clickthrough rates. CTRs rose as much as 1,400 percent above the industry average.
In addition to providing advertisers with useful data, U-T took a closer look at broadcast ad pricing and found it was only valuing TV viewership, not streaming. Prices rose 33 percent.
"Our digital revenue has seen a double-digit increase over last year," Gordon summarizes.
Now, about 30 percent of U-T's annual revenue is digital.