A Framework for Publishers To Map Their Journey on Innovation, Tactics, Data, and KPIs

Upside Analytics was asked to speak at a recent conference hosted by ARC XP and their diverse set of publishers about two things:


1) Innovation and speeding up the pace

2) First party data strategies

These are two big important topics.  And while it can lead to lots of ideas and tactics, the risk here is that it can also lead to a busy publisher feeling over-whelmed.  Where to start….what now, what next.   

I was worried about how it would land: how someone sitting in a publisher chair would receive them: would they feel empowered or confused?  So I kept these principles top of mind to help frame the discussion: 

·     Publishers have a lot to juggle, just telling them to innovate more is not helpful

·     They need to know how MUCH innovation and first party data strategy: what to focus on depends on where they are

·     To enable that focus, and a few KPIs to see progress, publishers would be well served to see where they are on a journey map, and how to match their stage of evolution to areas for innovation and first party data

·     There is also the question of resources: how much effort and how much “tech kit” is required

·     Publishers can’t do everything all at once but need to plan for peaks of effort and step-ups in tech without over-committing, over-buying and over-complicating too soon

·     Showing vs Telling: I always believe people learn more when shown vs told

·     So they need a framework for this

With those principles in mind, and after gathering many examples and helpful lessons for both innovation and first party data strategy, we needed the journey framework.  So one new thing we created was a 1 page visual to be that framework, to help a publisher sort through these ideas and focus.

But first, the joke version:

A Busy Publisher Journey Shouldn’t Feel Their Journey Is Like "CandyLand"…..

Instead, here is below that more useful template which is designed to help a publisher in the following ways:

·      See that it IS a journey and not "do everything all at once"

·      Find where they are on that journey in terms of growing their audience revenue

·      How to sort ideas for short-term and longer-term, in a way that help prioritize and focus vs feeling overwhelmed  


The goal in sharing this is that it can be a template for publishers map their own journey in tactics / KPIs / stages in a simple visual framework.

Upside Analytics Publisher Journey (template)

We hope this can be useful to publishers trying to articulate a path within their own team and help focus their efforts. Upside Analytics helps publishers set up a data strategy that can enable this journey and happy to discuss with you if you have questions or need a hand.

For more on a description of the key elements of this template and the narrative behind this, please read on.


Part 1: Journey in Three Levels

Divide the Journey Into 3 Levels: Level 1 Where You Are Now

In part 1, the idea of a journey is divided into three Levels: Level 1-3. Thinking about phases of the journey helps make it simpler.  Level 1 is where a publisher is NOW.  Level 2 is the next level, and Level is the more advanced state.

(Note: the MAU’s are listed on left as an example of publisher size, but of course could be changed depending on the publisher).

Part 2: Audience Growth: ARPU and Rates of Conversion

As Audience Growth Goes Up, ARPU $ Goes Up, Conversion Rate % May Go Down

Here we introduce the notion of audience growth (lines going up) as you go up in levels.  In addition, the image is meant to show that growing numbers, but also that is plateau (natural)a bit towards the end of the level. That’s a good time sign that it is time to consider your innovation (and corresponding metrics and data strategy) to get to the next level of growth.  The “ying/yang” circle provides a way to call out two key indicators for any publisher focused on audience revenue:

1) $ Average Revenue Per User(ARPU) (top of circle)

2) % Conversion Rate (bottom of circle)

In lower levels, a publishers’ ARPU may be lower than what it might be in higher levels. Why?  The publisher may have less content and less resources to engage and monetize audience.  But ARPU ideally goes up as publishers find ways to monetize the audience and get better at finding the sweet-spot pricing and messaging, or because additional revenue streams have been added such as new content (puzzles), merch, events, etc.  So while ARPU and audience goes up from level to level, the % conversion rates % may go down. Why?  The core established and engaged audience, who may make up a higher percentage of your overall traffic in the lower level will eventually be blended with new users as you increase reach over time.  Therefore, conversion rate may go down as a % of your total MAUs, even while you're paying audience increases (orange line).  A good “leaky bucket” strategy where you allow more content to go outside of your site and paywalls (such as on social) will increase your reach and MAUs but may depress conversion rates a bit.   Again, these numbers pictured here are examples only but they convey this concept and a space for setting goals along the journey.

Part 3:   Innovation and Analytics Effort

Innovation Effort Goes Together With Analytics, Steady But With Peaks

Here in part 3 there is the added element of the green area to convey the amount of “innovation and analytics” effort needed to both get what you can from your current level and prepare for the next.  Innovation must be accompanied by analytics otherwise how can you learn what is working (and NOT working).  The green area as shown has peaks and valleys– but always on.  It peaks when you are trying to identify the tactics and corresponding measurement to see how to hit yourKPIs, but then tapers off and down as you reduce testing and scale those winning parts of those experiments (A/B tests).  The framework shows it peaking again as your audience growth begins to plateau and you want to get to the next level of growth.  This is about effort and timing, which can go up and down as you try new things and answer the questions about what is working and what is next.  And while“innovation and analytics” is constantly “on”, those effort don’t need to be at peak levels at all times given that publishers need to be flexible with resources.  Ideally a surge in testing/learning helps you maximize yield in one level, and the determine what new things you will optimize for the next level.  


Part 4: A Tech Journey Should Have “Turn On” Features Vs  Replace Often

A Good Tech Platform Should Enable Turn-On Capabilities Vs Feel Like A Heavy Lift

The new blue area is meant to show tech platforms publishers need to get from level to level.  Again this is mean to convey effort (not cost or number of platforms).  The gradual step change visual shows an ideal journey for tech where a publisher can feel it is NOT a heavy lift to “turn-on”additional capabilities and feature, thereby using their existing core platform(s) to enable new innovations (newsletter mgmt., mobile/apps, new registration techniques, segmentation, dynamic paywalls, retention programs).   As a publisher, you want a tech platform that can grow with you level to level so growing doesn’t feel so hard.  


Part 5: Adding Tactics and KPIs Corresponding To Your Level

Space for Prioritized Tactics and Corresponding KPIs (Don't Too Many!)

Here we make space for selecting a few innovative tactics that will help you realize your audience revenue goals, that will be tested and scaled.  But also what are the corresponding KPIs appropriate to those tactics (how will you judge if it is working?).  By forcing a focus on a few key things and nailing those, it help a publisher from spreading themselves too thin and you are more likely to hit your goals and give yourself time to optimize them.   A publisher should discus tactics and KPIs together and decide which ones feel appropriate given where they are now (level 1) and what if any should be pushed to Level 2 or 3.  Just don’t try to do them all at once and not do any of them well. Also it's worth adding that giving the team 6-12 months per level is a good benchmark of time as American Press Institute research has shown that you get about 25% of your converters in the first 2 months, the next 25% in the next 4 months, and then it will likely take 12 months to get the remaining 50% of likely converters to actually convert. So you need 6-12 months to capture the benefit of each level.

Part 6: A Publisher Journey: Example of Filled Out Framework

Example of a Filled-Out Journey Framework

So here is the 1 pager....with everything filled out.  Hopefully this conveys the needs, the tactics, the KPIs and the journey in one simple but detailed and focused way.  The Tactics and KPIs listed here are just examples but meant to serve as “level appropriate” examples for the stage of audience and growth goals.  As a publisher, you would, of course, want to create your own version for you and your team.  But once you have it, it can really help make things more clear for the team and the management. 

If you would like help creating this for your organization, or you think it needs a tweak to make it work for you, we at Upside Analytics would be happy to speak with you.  Please contact us.

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