Behind the Acquisition: How WordPress VIP and Parse.ly Are Transforming the Way Content Teams Work

Webinar

WordPress VIP and Parse.ly joined forces recently to give companies the freedom and flexibility they need to focus on what matters: powering business growth by creating great digital experiences. Together, this combination will help every company prove the ROI and value of their content and commerce experiences.

So what does this really mean for you?

Watch the on-demand webinar for a lively discussion with WordPress VIP CEO Nick Gernert, Head of Parse.ly Sachin Kamdar, and Microsoft Sr. Communications Manager Will Tuttle to answer that question and discuss:

  • Unlocking the power of content to fuel growth by understanding the impact of that content beyond clicks.
  • Empowering teams with best-in-class content analytics and optimization.
  • Leveraging the recent WordPress VIP acquisition of Parse.ly to drive business growth.

And how Microsoft uses content analytics to improve its own content marketing.

For a deeper dive into optimizing content strategy and connecting your content to your business, check out The Beginner’s Guide to Content Analytics.

Contributors

Will Tuttle, Sr. Communications Manager, Microsoft

Will Tuttle is the Editorial Director of Xbox Wire, the official news channel for Xbox and one of the largest owned channels at Microsoft. In his 20-plus year career spanning online journalism, content marketing, and public relations, Will has used more content management systems and analytics tools than he can count. When he’s not strategizing or analyzing, he enjoys mountain biking with his kids, cooking, and playing video games.

Sachin Kamdar, Head of Parse.ly

Sachin leads a world-wide team of content analytics experts and meets regularly many leading global media companies and content-oriented brands. Parse.ly clients include Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal, Condé Nast, HelloFresh, WeddingWire, Policygenius, and Slate.

Based in NYC, when Sachin is not running Parse.ly, he is a mentor for Entreprenuers Roundtable Accelerator, and he sits on an advisory board for the University of Florida’s Audience Analytics program.

Nick Gernert, CEO, WordPress VIP

Nick Gernert is the CEO of WordPress VIP, the leading agile content platform. With more than two decades working across the open web, Nick is responsible for WordPress VIP’s overall business strategy. His passion lies in enabling enterprises to create valuable customer experiences.

Transcript

Nick Gernert (00:00):

All right, welcome everybody. There was your two minutes. Still got some folks joining us, but we’ll let folks just come in as they can. Thank you so much to everybody who’s joining us today for what I hope will be a really exciting discussion here around specifically, how do we better leverage something content analytics to really improve the content that we create and improve the impact of the content we create really. I am your host for the next hour or so here. I’m Nick Gernert. I’m the CEO of WordPress VIP. If you’re not familiar with WordPress VIP, we’re an agile content platform squarely focused on the enterprise.

(00:41):

We bring together creators and developers through our capabilities and content in commerce, and also in analytics to create really meaningful digital customer experiences. I’m excited you’re all here joining us today to talk about that last piece, which is just that piece on analytics which if you haven’t followed the news, no worries. But earlier this year, the content analytics platform known as Parse.ly joined up with us here at WordPress VIP, and we’re really excited about how bringing content analytics, content creation, commerce, these different things closer together to really create a much more… well, what we’re all trying to do, a better customer experience and drive better results for our own customers.

(01:27):

The webinar today is really going to help us dig into that. If you’re new to this, this is a series we do on webinars. And actually last month, we had a senior analyst with Forrester by the name of Nick Barber, who joined us to talk about this concept of an agile CMS, what does that actually mean. And one of the things he highlighted in that was this aspect of content creation. One of the really critical components now is closing the loop, and closing the loop with analytics. It’s not just enough to create and publish and move on. It’s creating, publishing, engaging, understanding, reflecting, feeding that back in. It’s this cycle. Today, let’s focus on closing the loop.

(02:06):

I have a couple of folks here who are joining me, some special guests who I want to introduce. First is my new colleague Sachin Kamdar, who is the co-founder of Parse.ly, I think back in 2009 I want to say if my notes are correct. Sachin, you can correct me on any of that, but Sachin really had created Parse.ly around this idea of how do we take something in analytics, take it from something that’s one-dimensional and thinking about views. But actually really, I’m digging in and better understanding the impact of the content we create, and how is that actually driving towards activity and results, and getting deeper into the layers of that, but also without having to become a data scientist.

(02:52):

So, that initially had a lot of uptake with within media organizations as you can expect. Parse.ly was adopted by some of the world’s largest publishers. But more recently, that’s now finding its way into more enterprises around thinking about content creation, and how enterprises are really aligning content creation with their own growth, and how do we improve that process, how do we improve that engagement and things like that. Fun fact about Sachin. In a past life, he was a public school teacher. And when I found that out, it made a lot of sense because I feel like I’m always learning something from Sachin as we chat. Sachin, welcome, really glad to have you here.

(03:30):

And I know everyone’s going to be excited to learn from you on this. And then our second guest here is a man by the name of Will Tuttle, and Will is a senior communications manager at Microsoft. And Will really represents the other part of that preamble I was giving before, which is how do we think about moving… if content creation and a lot of high velocity content was maybe more thought about as for publishers, that’s actually finding its way directly into the brands themselves now. Will is the editorial director for what’s called Xbox Wire which is the primary news channel for Microsoft Xbox. Fun fact too and Will can correct me if this is overstating it, but it’s also the largest owned news channel by audience and impact that Microsoft actually has.

(04:22):

The team that Will is a part of is driving direct impact around what’s happening with Microsoft Xbox and the community at large. Will’s background is in journalism, public relations, content marketing, and has really brought all of that now into his role and thinking how do we have a direct relationship with our audience? What does that audience actually want, but ultimately, how do we also measure the success of that engagement with that audience? And how do we think about strategy and measurement, and feeding that all back together? I’m really excited for y’all to learn from Will today. Will’s all-around great guy, who loves things like mountain biking.

(04:59):

If you can imagine it, he does appreciate video games, father of twins, all-around good guy. Will, thank you for really joining us here today on this. And then there’s you all that are joining us on the webinar. You all have an active role in this as well, and we’ll make this better. Some folks are already using the questions tool. Thank you if you found your way to the questions capability in the webinar, use it. We’re going to reserve some time here at the end of today’s session to answer any questions you all might have. I don’t know if we’ll have time to get to everything, but we have 53 more minutes here together.

(05:37):

We’re going to leverage the time that we do have to both bring some ideas to the surface for you all, but then also hopefully get to questions and answers and as many of those as we can. Drop those in throughout. We’re going to hold on to those, and then we’ll get to those here in the second half of today’s webinar. With that, the last thing I’d like to do here is just really set this up. And this idea of analytics and really being able to take informed actions is something that as a business as we look at this from WordPress VIP’s perspective, we want to think about solving for this more holistically because analytics, there’s plenty of solutions out there that you can think about when it comes to analytics in your work.

(06:19):

It’s not always as easy as flipping a switch. Yeah, we can jump to that Parse.ly plus VIP in there, it’s okay. And it’s not always as simple as flipping a switch, because we still hear a lot of common concerns around this. Signal to noise, I’m overwhelmed with the amount of information I have and making sense of it. Who has access to these tools, it’s reserved for a few within the organization that actually have that. And then ultimately, feeding insights back into the work that we’re actually doing. These are not solved things. I think hopefully everybody here can think about where in your own work struggled with these sorts of things.

(06:56):

And it’s something here is that because the reality is there’s no shortage of data that we’re all collecting, but that data is only as valuable as our ability to bring it back into the work that we’re doing. As Parse.ly comes into what we’re doing here at WordPress VIP, that’s really critical to this. Because if you can think about WordPress as something that has really the idea of democratizing publishing, really putting the power in the hands of the creators, moving it from being you have to be deeply technical to do something to you can be less technical, but expert. What WordPress has done there, Parse.ly is doing the same thing with analytics, where it’s you don’t have to be a data scientist.

(07:36):

You don’t have to live in this every day in order to improve the quality of your work and the overall results you’re driving for this business, for your business and that’s really I think at the crux of a lot of this. And that’s what I’m excited to dig in here today. With that, I’m going to finally take a breath here. And I’m going to hand it to Sachin because I’d love for Sachin to just set the stage here on what is content analytics, because we’re very specific in saying that. And also, really this idea that there’s untapped potential in that content. How do we really get that out of there? So, over to use Sachin.

Sachin Kamdar (08:10):

Thanks Nick, and really excited to talk more about this area. I’m going to try to be fast here because really, the meat of this conversation is with Will and understanding how he’s leveraging content analytics to make better decisions around how to prove the value of their content, and how to really showcase the power of the content that they produce on Xbox Wire, but I do want to talk a little bit about this concept of the untouched potential of content. We have a mix of people that are in this webinar from a variety of different industries. I’m sure they’re a decent amount from the media and entertainment space.

(08:45):

And we all know coming from the media and entertainment world, how powerful that content can be, how it can accelerate the growth in terms of audience, how that can drive really deep engagement, and how that can get the results that we want. But oftentimes, when we talk to the other side on general brands and enterprises, we run into a little bit of a barrier. And this stat I think captures it really, really well in terms of this untapped potential content. Eighty-eight percent of prospective customers are researching companies, products, and everything in and around that before they actually contact you when they’re doing that mostly through your content.

(09:29):

When people recognize that digital is not just about having a website up, but it’s about having an experience and having the right flow that creates engaging content to get people to raise their hand and say, “Hey, talk to me,” they recognize that whoa, this thing has way more power than I initially thought it did. We also just see this naturally happening and of course, the last year as every company went digital first was an accelerant to this. But when you look at the joint customers between WordPress VIP and Parse.ly, the majority of the new customer growth that we’re seeing is really on the marketer side, where they’re recognizing that, “Hey, we need to create a way to grab audience to engage audience, but that’s not enough.

(10:14):

We actually have to get them to take actions to get them to convert in some way, shape, or form.” This is another piece of data that we’re seeing that really helps us explain the shift in the marketplace and the shift, and people like Will which we’re going to talk about in a little bit and I bet a bunch of people that are joining this webinar right now. And finally and most importantly, the way that content is really impacting organizations have shifted. And this is the case for any type of company, regardless if you’re on the publishing space, whether you’re on the brand side, whether you’re B2C, whether you’re B2B, this is the new way where that we’re thinking about content.

(10:58):

It’s not enough to just think about the way to get people into the top of the funnel, to get that general awareness. And the metrics that we’re used to which we’re going to talk about in a second as well aren’t enough to capture that. We really need to think about the entire journey of the customer, of the reader, of the viewer and how they’re making their ways to signing up for a newsletter, how they’re raising their hand to say, “Contact, me show me a demo,” how they’re converting into a subscriber, how they’re purchasing things, how they’re signing up for events like this webinar, right?

(11:32):

All of these things are incredibly important, and we have to think about the totality of the funnel now, how we’re getting people to understand who we are as a brand, as a publisher, how we’re getting them to engage with their content, so how we’re getting them to sign up for things, how we’re getting them to really spend time reading, watching the things that we’re producing. And then finally, how we’re getting them to make a decision. Because ultimately, if we’re going to prove the value of our content, we need them to get to make some type of decision with us. And that can be different for different types of organizations, but really it is about that conversion.

(12:08):

And it’s where at Parse.ly, we’ve spent a lot of time over the last two years evolving our platform, evolving our technology to really capture the totality of all these things. We like to say there’s great content out there, and there are great brands that are producing great content, but the best companies we see know why their content exists. And they use it to achieve their goals. They’re very directed about what they want to do with that content, how data informs the actions that they’re going to take with it and then finally, how they actually show justify and prove that it is helping them reach their goals. When that happens, amazing things occur and we see magic with the ability to connect content to audience.

(12:52):

Just really quickly on Parse.ly, the three things that we really focus on is one, simply understanding your audience, how do you get to track all the things that are relevant for your audience with your content on your sites, inside of your apps, on third-party platforms like Facebook, et cetera. Two, how do you leverage those 30 plus content metrics to really inform your strategy and drive that for your business moving forward. And then three, how do you really use all of this to get those right decisions, conversions, and justify the impact of your content, and show them that this is untapped potential, but here is the results of this unpacked untapped potential.

(13:32):

And we’re going to talk a little bit with Will about how he does that at Microsoft. So, let’s get into data-driven content and practice with Will. And Will, maybe we can just start out by telling us a little bit about yourself, what’s your role, tell us about Xbox Wire, and maybe a little bit of history about both your history and also Xbox Wire’s history.

Will Tuttle (13:56):

Sure. Thanks for having me. First of all, appreciate it. We’ll start off with the Xbox Wire. Xbox Wire was launched in 2013, and the original intent of the site was for a press. Basically, a news center where press could come and learn about the latest products and consoles, and things from Xbox. And it was very press centric. We have a media asset section, where press can download assets for things. And I think the original intent was basically to replace the use of press releases. Rather than sending a bunch of stuff out to the press and hoping they pick it up, we would just put it on our own channel and they could grab it from there. So, that was the original intent of the site.

(14:47):

And it’s very quickly became evident that it was more than just press that was reading it. We have a really engaged audience, probably more than a lot of other brands or topics. We have a lot of folks who want to be really feel like they’re in the know and know what the latest things are. They don’t necessarily want to wait until press picks it up, and then they write about it and then they’re learning about it from there. They really want to be getting it straight from the horse’s mouth. It really became evident pretty quickly that we were getting a lot of consumers reading the site. The site grew very quickly into the millions of page views every month. And we knew it wasn’t coming definitely straight from press.

(15:34):

There’s only a couple thousand press outlets that we’d expect ourselves to get picked up by, and that actually played into my background. As you mentioned, I was a journalist. I worked for a site called IGN which was the biggest video game site in the world at the time, and probably still is. My background was definitely speaking directly to consumers and giving them that news, and getting it out there that way. Audience growth was one of my big focuses in my previous role. I was able to bring that over here, and start figuring out ways that we could grow our audience on Xbox Wire.

Sachin Kamdar (16:14):

Great. Just talking a little bit about that shift from Xbox Wire just being for press releases, to now having your consumers go directly to the content you were creating, what did that change in terms of the value of your content or in terms of your ability to showcase, “Hey, this is a way that we’re either circumventing the traditional model, or a way that we can reach our consumers directly”?

Will Tuttle (16:47):

I think the biggest way was that we were able to show our worth to our publishing partners and folks within the company a lot more. Being able to say that we reach millions of people every day is a huge thing for a lot of publishers who are looking to get their news out there, but maybe we have smaller channels, or less reach. It pretty quickly came to the point where we were getting a lot of requests from third parties, our third-party publishing partners.

(17:18):

But also from within Microsoft and from within Xbox, where when we had a product announced, teams really want to be doing more stuff on Xbox Wire and do more storytelling, less just putting the news out there and saying, “Hey, this thing is available or this thing is coming,” but really doing more of that deep dive interesting storytelling content where we’re saying, “Hey, this is how this came to be, or we’re giving you a behind-the-scenes look of how we created these products or what the thinking was.” And it really allows us to really embrace our role as storytellers, more than just product marketers. And we find that type of engaging content really resonates with people more. It makes them more likely to purchase a product, or download a service.

Sachin Kamdar (18:07):

Great, thanks. Let’s get into maybe the evolution. We saw at your career evolve. You worked at IGN. You moved over to Microsoft with Xbox Wire. You saw Xbox Wire evolve from it being a mechanism to help out on the communication side to it being a tool to reach your consumers directly. How has that changed the way that you think about data and analytics, and what has happened when you started at Xbox Wire to where you guys are now with some of the things that you look at care about?

Will Tuttle (18:40):

Yeah. I think analytics has always played a big role in my career. I think I mentioned yeah, I feel like I’ve used just about every analytics tool under the sun over the years, everything from Comscore to Omniture to Adobe and Google and stuff. I’ve had a lot of experience with analytics. And I think it’s really important that we find ways to use them wherever we can to inform what we’re doing, whether that’s just figuring out what’s bringing people to the site, how we can best keep them there, what things they’re doing after reading an article. That’s always a big one for me is, are they just bouncing or are they sticking around and reading other stuff? And if so, what sort of stuff are they reading?

(19:26):

And then also just figuring out those larger engagement metrics, like time spent on articles. I know we’ll get into this more specific soon, but I think a big thing especially at Microsoft is we do have to train leadership and executives and folks around the company to think about analytics a bit differently. I think when I started, it was page views are still the end-all, be-all of analytics and metrics. Well, that’s certainly a good thing to look at a good base number, and easy for non-analytics users to understand. There’s so much more out there that we can be doing. And I think it can be hard to get the full picture when you’re just combing through spreadsheets of page views, and adding up things and finding averages.

(20:20):

One of the things we’ve worked on a lot is training our leadership to think about metrics differently and think about what they can be doing differently with those metrics. Rather than waiting for them to ask us the metrics that we already know, we go to them and say, “Hey, not only do we have these page view numbers, but these are the most popular articles in terms of time spent on the site, or this is what people are reading after they read this particular article.” And it’s just conditioning them, or training them to use a different muscle than just, “Hey, what are the most obvious numbers that we could be comparing.” So, that’s something that we’ve really been focusing on is just training folks to think differently about metrics.

(21:07):

And then always looking for new tools, and we’ll talk about this a bit more, but figuring out new tools that people can use to empower themselves, and not be waiting for us to send them metrics, but rather being able to find some stuff on their own.

Sachin Kamdar (21:23):

Yeah, and we’ll touch into that a second. I do want to dive a little bit deeper on the training of leadership side one of the things we often see at Parse.ly is that even though we might be working with somebody specifically like you Will, who is the person that’s deciding to bring on Parse.ly, oftentimes their job is to push the analytics up to people that manage them to their leadership team and then also down. When you talk about training leadership that’s unique, what does that actually functionally look like? What are you doing to help train your leadership on these are the right things to look at, here’s how you should think about data and analytics, here’s how it informs our decisions?

Will Tuttle (22:03):

Yeah. A lot of times, we will find specific examples of things that work and things that don’t. Rather than just giving them fire hose of like, “Hey, here’s all the stories we did this month and here’s the numbers we got from them,” rather finding those really specific nuggets of information that we can be sharing that provides some real insight, especially around impacts. It’s not really a saying at Microsoft, but we’re always looking at the balance of impact versus activity. We don’t want just be putting stuff out there for the sake of putting it out there. Occasionally, we have to, but really we want to make sure that the stuff that we’re doing is impactful and that we’re really getting the most bang for our buck. We’re always looking for those…

Sachin Kamdar (22:52):

What does impactful mean? How would you define that for Microsoft Xbox?

Will Tuttle (22:59):

I think I know we said that Xbox Wire launched as a press site, but press pickup is still really big for us. We want to make sure that when we are putting news out there, that it’s not just going out there and dying, and nobody’s really noticing it. We do track things like press pick up, and just seeing where that narrative threads through. Also, things like social shares and what impact we’re seeing there. Actually, we’re a member of the PR team. I think a lot of companies would be probably content marketing, but we are a member of the PR team. I work really closely with our influencer relations team. I think actually Jeff on our team might actually be on this webinar.

(23:46):

We work really closely with them too just to see what stuff that influencers and content creators are picking up. Anybody who has kids or plays games probably know the impact of YouTubers and Twitch streamers and stuff. We’re always looking at places where our content will be picked up by them. And we’ve actually seen more and more over the last couple years, we’ll see YouTubers actually show Xbox Wire on their screen as they’re talking about whatever news we’ve announced, or whatever stuff we’ve shared. There’s a lot of ways that we measure impact and measure what people are picking up. And I think that’s constantly changing and as I said, there’s always new outlets where we’re seeing that sort of impact.

Sachin Kamdar (24:37):

Let’s get to the bottom part of the how do you train people, how do you give them. I think the phrase you use give them the tools, give them the ability to empower their own decision making. What does that look like at Xbox Wire? How do you make sure that it’s not something locked behind the desk of an analyst, but something that everybody can use?

Will Tuttle (24:58):

Yeah. You and I have talked about this a bit before, but I feel like there’s times when I spend a good chunk of my time just pulling numbers for people, fielding requests on how did this article do, or how many page views did it get, or getting these things. And I think part of analytics is figuring out ways where we can empower people to find their own stuff, and answer those questions in advance.

(25:27):

I’ve been looking into ways that we can auto generate things like reporting, things like that where we can anticipate what’s going to be asked of us, especially in terms of how just article performance or news performance, and automating those things in advance, where we say, “Okay, we know that this team is going to need these numbers on Thursday of next week. So, let’s have a report go out Wednesday night that gives all that information to them well in advance.” And then there’s also stuff with teams. We have a lot of products. We have a lot of games, we have consoles, services like Xbox game pass. Really, it’s about empowering those teams to have the information that they need before they even realize that they need it.

(26:16):

We can set up reports for them. We can send them information again, important nuggets that we didn’t necessarily expect we want to share with them. So, they can know for the next time that this might be something they want to do more of, or something they want to do less of. I think I’ve said before, but I want our analytics to work for me. I don’t want to be working for the analytics. I want to make sure that our teams have everything they need, and we can anticipate those asks from them.

Sachin Kamdar (26:46):

I’m going to dive into that, that’s a really nice phrase. What does analytics looking for you look like from a day-to-day practice perspective? And then also second part, what does the reverse look like when you have to work for analytics and it’s not doing its job for you?

Will Tuttle (27:03):

I think for me, it’s really I’m not going to try to sell Parse.ly here or anything, but we’ve been experimenting it up with it a bit. And I really like the idea of having a lot of context around numbers. Too much time I think is spent combing through spreadsheets and adding things up, and averaging and looking for year over year comparison, or month over month, or how did these other articles do compared with these articles. I think really being able to streamline that process wherever you can is hugely important. And especially in terms of using tags, especially category tags and just meta tags for being able to compare traffic on different franchises, or different genres.

(27:57):

What are our top 10 first person shooter stories over the last year? Who’s the big ones, and who should we be bringing that information to? I like to be able to strategize and work on content, and just have analytics be a thing that it pops up every so often. And I get to look at the numbers, and I get to see growth and figure out what’s working and what’s not, but not spending all of my time looking at tables of numbers, and find patterns where there might not even be patterns. So, anytime that stuff can be automated for me, it makes my job a lot easier.

Sachin Kamdar (28:35):

Yeah. Having something that maybe gives you a better platform to just get the insights instead of having to work to get the insights, and spending a lot of time and effort there, totally makes sense.

Will Tuttle (28:46):

Yeah. We have a couple examples of where things that have worked, and we’ve used analytics to find them and things that also haven’t worked.

Sachin Kamdar (28:57):

Yeah, what’s your…

Will Tuttle (29:01):

We had one last year, where we had Xbox Series X came out last year. And we had a very long recap of the news that we’ve already announced, and we wanted to put together a story that was just breaking down everything we’ve shared about the console. There was a huge appetite for new information on Xbox Series X and the latest big things. And we had done some really, really great content leading up to launch just in terms of revealing specs and revealing different features, backward compatibility things. We did a lot of reveals over the course of the year. We thought it would be good to put together a big story that had just all that stuff in one place for people who are looking.

(29:46):

And as you might imagine, it ended up being quite long. I think it was a little over 4000 words, which is a very long article. And we had some concerns about how long it was. We knew that we probably were going to lose people here and there. And we weren’t really sure how it was going to perform. And I think myself and some of the content guys put out a warning just like, “Hey, just so everybody knows, this is definitely on the long side. And we might get a might not catch flack for it, but we might not get the type of readership that we were hoping for.” And when we did get start pulling analytics and taking a look at it, we found pretty quickly that our fears were definitely right.

(30:29):

And the read time on it was less than a minute which I think for about a 3000 word article, it should be about a 10-minute read. The fact that people were bouncing that quickly was a bummer, but we did have actually huge numbers on it in terms of people coming to it. It’s just that they’re coming and probably looking at the scroll bar on the side saying like, “Wow, that’s a long article,” and just bouncing pretty quickly. We were able to take those learnings to the team and just say, “Hey, in the future, let’s think of ways that we can be doing this better, or that we can just say maybe we make an article that’s just really quick little hits, where we link off to the previous stories and say to learn more about this stuff, go over here.”

(31:16):

We’re redirecting people and keeping them within the site, versus trying to keep them through a whole long article, especially on mobile where you’re scrolling a bunch of times. So, that was a really good learning for us. And then also more recently, we had a story on black history month which those stories typically perform fairly well for us, especially when we’re able to share them socially and get some amplification across the company. And they’re good stories just in terms of sharing that information and showing what our communities are doing. They’re very important in that area. But for that one in particular, we saw huge traffic numbers.

(31:57):

And we weren’t really sure where they were coming from, or what was going on. And it took some digging, but we were able to figure out that basically we looked at the browsers that people were using. And we found that a huge number were using the Microsoft Edge browser on the Xbox console itself, which is normally that’s a number that’s minuscule. And this was 99% of hundreds of thousands of views on the story. We figured out that the story was shared on the Xbox dashboard. Right when you turn on your console, it’s right on there. And people were clicking on it and saying, “Oh, I want to learn more.” And it was taking them Xbox Wire on their console.

(32:44):

And that was really eye-opening for us because it was a platform that we didn’t really think of as a place where people would go and read content. We figured people just want to come in and play their games, or watch Netflix, or do whatever and not necessarily read stuff, but there was a ton of engagement there. So, that was a really exciting thing for us to find. And now, we’re looking at different ways that we can be doing that again in the future, just seeing that audience there that we didn’t realize was actually there in the first place.

Sachin Kamdar (33:16):

That’s great. And I’ll just add a couple of comments around that because we see with many of our customers, they have that exact same insight where they start to see a new platform pop up that they’ve never seen before, whether that’s on a series of articles, whether that’s in a specific tagging category. And for people here, sometimes that’s an opportunity to partner with us. In this case, maybe Will can partner internally with the team at Microsoft that’s maybe pushing stuff out there, and make sure that you build the right relationship. But oftentimes, that can be things like Flipboard, or that can be things new social networks that are popping up.

(33:51):

And there are opportunities to partner with them to make sure that you have a strong relationship, and they can really accelerate your visibility on those platforms. I really suggest for everyone here, you take a deep dive with your content around that, and see if there’s anything that’s growing at a good clip. And you can get in early to capture some of that audience.

Will Tuttle (34:11):

Yeah. And actually, as you might expect, our audience is excused quite young, and they’re really different from a lot of the other blogs at Microsoft specifically. We by far our mobile audience is way higher than any other outlets here. I think the last breakdown I saw was about 65% or almost 70% of our readers are mobile, and it’s basically flipped for a lot of the other blogs. The fact that we know that our audience is very mobile really pushed us to… you mentioned Flipboard. We got on Flipboard a couple years ago. We do have a lot of folks who read on AMP platforms.

(34:58):

We’re always looking for those new platforms, and we’re currently looking at things like Snapchat and TikTok for how do we embrace these, and what can we do to… We can get on the platforms, but it’s really a matter of getting on there and doing content that people actually want, versus just throwing a bunch of crap out there, and hoping that something works.

Sachin Kamdar (35:22):

That’s great. The other thing that I want to talk about a little bit quickly, and then I really want to move on a little bit to how you made your shift from media publishing over to the marketing side Will. But before we get to that, I want to talk a little bit about I think you were getting in the realm of where you shifted from maybe reactive, looking at the performance of individual things to maybe more proactive, looking at things like tags to help develop content strategy. Can you talk a little bit about that shift, and how maybe you’re trying to focus the team more on the forward-looking stuff, instead of just saying like, “Hey, this article did well, good job”?

Will Tuttle (35:59):

Yeah. Yeah, I’ve always been a big proponent of going to just going to Google and putting in a game name, and seeing what the first five results are after that, or the auto search thing and saying, “This is what people are searching for related to this game. How do we capitalize on that and include those things in our headlines?” But in recent years, we started working more closely with our social team, especially our social reactive team at Xbox, which does field a lot of questions in terms of why isn’t this thing working, or why can’t I figure this out? So, that helps inform us to say, “Hey, people are asking these questions, and we should get ahead of this and give them these answers, because this could be something that is just going to keep increasing.”

(36:50):

And they’re really on front lines in terms of issues that customers might have, or just confusion around features, or things like setting your home console for use for your whole family using your Xbox live gold accounts. So, you don’t have to be paying for multiple accounts. Really, any opportunity that we have to get ahead of questions that people might be asking, we do that. We work closely with Nick’s friend Major Nelson, who is the head of… he’s not the head of social, but he’s got an extremely engaged audience. And for better or worse, they could be pretty brutal if we don’t really read the room and announce things that aren’t going to make people happy.

(37:46):

If he starts seeing folks getting spun up and getting angry about something and feeling like we’re doing something wrong, we try to find ways that we can react to that really, really quickly. And it’s nice because we’re on because we’re on WordPress, we’re able to put together articles and get them up really quickly. There’s plenty of other content management tools that you have to put it into different environments before you launch, and it might take a couple days to get something up. Whereas we can have an article up and published in a matter of minutes really, it’s pretty great.

Sachin Kamdar (38:23):

Cool. I think we have time for one more question here Will before we get into general Q and A, and thank you everybody for asking so many amazing questions. I’m not sure we’re going to be able to get to all of them, but there are certainly some really nice ones here. But before that, I know that there’s people in this audience that either have made the shift from media over to the marketing side, or are looking to make that shift. Could you just give some people general tips, lessons that you’ve learned as you made that? And in particular, I know we talked about before the authenticity, sincerity side maintaining that. Maybe something around that and how you kept that in that transition.

Will Tuttle (39:08):

Yeah. As you mentioned, I was a journalist before. And I was actually a print journalist even before I was a web journalist. It tells you how old I am, but I was a journalist. And I viewed PR and marketing as the dark side as I think a lot of journalists probably do. And then I left my job, just wasn’t totally sure what I was going to do, but I got picked up by a content marketing company that was a boutique company, that focused on the game industry. And that really opened my eyes to what actually was going on there in terms of you can still do what feels like great journalism, but you’re doing it for basically a marketing company, or for marketing.

(39:59):

You’ll probably notice it pays better which is nice, but I think one thing is that for anybody who makes that move from journalism to content marketing or PR, I think you should really be viewed as an opportunity, to change the way that those fields work. One of the first things I did when we started Xbox Wire was create a style guide. And one of the first things in big bowl letters is be authentic. You don’t want folks to necessarily feel like they’re reading a corporate blog, or they’re just getting their news from a sterile corporate environments. But rather, you need to have a tone of voice that doesn’t make it feel like it’s a sales pitch.

(40:43):

You just feel like, “Hey, I’m really telling you this story and hopefully by the end of that story, you’re on board. You want to purchase this thing or you want to learn more.” I think a style guide is really important. Stuff like trademarks, we really feel strongly about having actual bylines in the byline, actual names. We shifted to a model of having guest authors on the site basically. Anytime we get content from a third party or from our internal teams, we tell them like, “Hey, we need to have a name on here. We need folks to put a face to a name to a product, so that they feel like hey this person who’s been working on this product for a couple years, they’re really passionate about what they’ve worked on.

(41:32):

And they want us to learn more, and they’re not just trying to sell us even though they are. They really want us to understand what they went through to bring this thing to us.” I think storytelling is about empathy in a lot of ways. It’s about understanding what your reader wants, and giving it to them without making them feel like they just wasted a bunch of time, or making them feel like they’re just getting sold or pitched to.

Sachin Kamdar (41:56):

Awesome. And I’ll just add my own quick commentary to that, which even if you are a journalist and you come from the media publishing world, in my view, you’re still doing marketing. Maybe it’s marketing for a different thing, but you’re still trying to get somebody to view an ad, subscribe to an organization, purchase something in some cases. To me, it is all about creating the right relationship and the right mechanism to engage those audiences. And if you do that, to your point Will with authenticity and sincerity, they are going to read it. They are going to consume it, and you will get the results that you want. And then you prove that through the data.

(42:37):

You make sure everybody inside of your organization recognizes that the content that you are producing is as powerful and as impactful as you said it is, and you do that through the data and analytics.

Will Tuttle (42:50):

Yeah. And actually if you don’t mind for one second, also as I said, we launched the press site. We have consumers and stuff, but we never really considered revenue as one of our key focuses. And we really quickly found that over time that the revenue generated directly by Xbox Wire has grown exponentially over the last couple years. And we’re directly responsible for millions of dollars in sales, basically without even trying. That isn’t our end goal. It’s not one of our key metrics, but we’re selling things. Whether folks want us to or not, we’re moving that needle on that side. I think that’s really interesting too.

Sachin Kamdar (43:27):

It’s a great place to end this part. Nick, do you want to pick it up from here with some of the Q and A?

Nick Gernert (43:31):

Yeah. Sachin, Will, thank you both for just running through-

Will Tuttle (43:34):

Sure, thanks.

Nick Gernert (43:35):

… a lot there. This was great, and there’s a lot of great questions that are coming in. I don’t know if how much time we’ll have to get to everything here, but I would also encourage folks if you’ve still got something, get it in there. We’re going to do this rapid fire. First one comes in that I’m going to pick on here is thank you Estelle for asking this, which is really just this thought around large corporate brands. Will, you’re at Microsoft, this thought that there’s large teams dedicated to content analytics. And that maybe from a smaller business perspective, there’s just maybe not a depth of resources that an organization the size of Microsoft has, and trying to understand what do you recommend for smaller companies that have less resources.

(44:21):

Before I turn it to you for the question, something that’s interesting in that, at least through my observation, is one of the things actually we recently learned through this discussion we had with Forrester was actually CMO budgets and comms budgets through the pandemic have been under a crunch. So, 200 plus billion in budgets just being slashed, and a lot of things getting slashed are in just the number of folks working on these things, the tools folks have available a lot of these things. And one of the things that’s always amazed me and as we’ve worked with larger organizations that actually teams such as yours Will, it’s not like you just have this massive bench at your disposal for the company.

(44:58):

I would love to ask you is to relate your team and your work to more of that small business side of this, and help folks understand how are you doing more with less there, and what other what can others learn from that?

Will Tuttle (45:12):

Yeah. Well, just for context when you say team of Xbox Wire, it’s really me and one other guy. We don’t really have a team per se. That’s actually part of why we rely on internal and external we refer to them as experts because they are, but we rely on other folks to create the content, add our direction. And then we take it and edit it and publish it, and make sure it’s all looking good and stuff. I would say that having a small team isn’t necessarily the worst thing. But as the old saying goes, it pays to work smarter and not work harder. For small businesses though, it’s tough. Like I said, I worked at a boutique company where there were basically five of us. And we didn’t have a dedicated analytics person.

(46:04):

It was just whoever had the chance to pull some numbers that it was their turn to do it, and they did it. Yeah. I mean it’s hard. I don’t know if I necessarily have a specific advice for it still. I would say work to find whatever tools you can to make your job easier, experiment where you can, but also don’t put pressure on yourself to do stuff that you can’t. There’s only so many hours in the day, and I think we’ve all been at the point where we feel like we’re overworked and tired, and budgets are smaller than they were. We’ve gone through that plenty of time. I think finding the right tools is a huge, huge part of it.

(46:53):

Again, not to pitch Parse.ly necessarily, but not spending a bunch of my time scrolling through spreadsheets has been really a boon to me, because I can focus more on the content creation and the strategy part of my job, rather than the analytics side.

Sachin Kamdar (47:10):

And I’ll just add maybe this is counter to what Will just said. If you’re really small and you’re not producing a lot of content, arguably you shouldn’t be spending a ton of time in analytics. Because just by the nature of you doing it yourself and you doing it maybe with a couple of other people, you’re going to have an into intuition and a gut feel for what is and isn’t working with your audience. And you don’t want to spend a ton of your time in the data analytics. You really want to work on getting that stuff out there, so people can consume and you can grow your audience over time.

(47:44):

I’d say if you’re not producing a lot of content, and by a lot of content, I mean maybe one blog post or something like that per week or per month, something on that scale, then you’re going to have a intuitive sense of what’s working. And I would trust that to start out.

Will Tuttle (48:02):

Yeah.

Nick Gernert (48:04):

Great, okay. Thank you both for jumping in on that one. Mary has an interesting one here around really trying to think about funnel and conversion. Sachin, this is more for you because it directly is a question around Parse.ly. And really, does Parse.ly have the capability to connect content engagement through to lower funnel metrics? For example, demonstrate if someone who engaged with content eventually got to a quote, or completed an app or on and on, so thinking about attribution and conversion there. Do you mind sharing a bit about that?

Sachin Kamdar (48:36):

Yeah, happy to. It’s where we focused a lot of our time, energy, and efforts as a product organization over the last basically two years now. And really, what we thought was missing from the marketer’s view of what was happening was that voice of content. The content being able to say, “Hey, it’s me here that’s helping to get somebody to Mary, what you said to get a quote or to complete an application.” Oftentimes, that’s really left to the user persona side, but that doesn’t really flow back to the content side.

(49:08):

What we’ve worked on at Parse.ly is to connect the dots there, so that you understand that it is this type of content, these topics or the specific content that was really critical to the journey to get somebody to eventually sign up for your application, or to purchase something or to subscribe for something, any one of those types of things which you would call a conversion event, or a decision event. That’s exactly what we’re now able to solve with Parse.ly, and to give you all of that data to justify the importance of content for that funnel.

Nick Gernert (49:45):

Thanks Sachin. Yeah, I would say this is a common challenge that we see. Because of just all of the different touch points along the way and just creating more of what is the entire customer journey on here, it just becomes more and more critical to really be able to understand this. And also, look out over longer time horizons. Something that we’ve covered in previous sessions was around just how limited folks are in looking more than in a 6-month window. And the reality is actually a purchase decision might evolve over time periods even longer than that. So, that’s actually the reality of this. So, thinking about how you paint more a more comprehensive picture there is just more and more critical now.

(50:23):

Thank you Sachin. All right, Jameson… thanks Mary for the question on that. Jameson asked about this question of impact, which you Sachin you asked Will how he defined impact. I think it’s only fair to now ask you from more of the personal analytics perspective, how does Parse.ly think about impact and what opinions and insights can you share there?

Sachin Kamdar (50:47):

It goes back to that slide that we showed where the best companies know why their content exists and what goals they’re trying to achieve. The impact thing and the resulting metrics are going to be different for almost every single organization, because your content’s purpose might have multiple goals. It might be getting somebody to sign up for a newsletter, getting somebody to just come to your site, getting somebody to ask for a price quote, maybe even getting somebody to purchase something. The first question that I would have for you Jameson is that is it clear for you what your content is trying to achieve.

(51:24):

If you know that, then there are metrics that you can use that can help you track that, and then justify or understand how content is helping you reach those goals. I’ll just mention a few here maybe to get the conversation started and Will feel free to chime in. But for example, I know that one of our customers is really interested in two things. They’re interested in growing the number of unique visitors to their site, but they don’t want to do that as a consequence of just pure growth. They want to make sure that people are actually spending time reading and watching their content. Their main KPI is a metric and Parse.ly called total engaged minutes.

(52:06):

Why that’s a really interesting one is because it captures both side of those. You look at an individual article, and you’re looking at the number of engaged minutes that somebody engage, means they’re actively reading it. It’s not just a browser tab that’s not being looked at, it’s active on their site. The number of minutes per article. But when you look at total, you’re actually adding that, summing that up or actually multiplying that up with the number of total visitors that are coming to it as well. You have two different levels there.

(52:38):

If you want to increase the number of total engaged minutes, you could go the way of just having massive number of unique visitors coming to read that piece of content, or you could have content that’s super engaged where it’s not a ton of people, but they’re reading the full thing. They’re spending a lot of time with it, or somewhere in the middle. For that customer, that’s the metric that they use to really understand and give people freedom to flex on either one of those things, engagement or growth. For other people, it’s very bottom of the funnel, where it’s like, “Listen, I need to know what content is helping me drive purchase. I need to know what content’s helping me drive subscription.”

(53:18):

And that is where we come into the attribution side of this is how is content contributing to that? What are the topics? What are the categories? Again for Jameson, for you, it comes back to the question of what is your content trying to achieve? And then from there, you can get the right relevant metrics to help you understand that.

Nick Gernert (53:38):

Thanks Sachin. I don’t know, Will, do you have anything you want to… you don’t have to add anything there, but..

Will Tuttle (53:41):

No, although I will say one thing we also look at, or at least I personally care about is bounce rate. I like it when people come to my site for one thing and end up reading two or three more articles, versus just leaving, although so much of our content is driven by search that a lot of times people are searching for a specific thing. And then they come in and find the thing that they want, and then leave, but I’m always looking for ways to keep people on the site, and keep them reading more content and learning about more stuff.

Nick Gernert (54:13):

Yeah, it’s a good reminder. It’s like the saying, the most important thing it’s not the first thing someone reads, it’s the second thing that they read in there, and really thinking about that. All right, we got three and a half minutes. Going quick here, Greg represents the person, the group those of us thinking I’m used to Google analytics, I’m used to other email marketing programs like Marketo and Pardot, and things around measuring success and content. How does Parse.ly take this to another level approach this differently? Sachin, this one’s really for you.

Sachin Kamdar (54:46):

Sure. The simple way to put it is that Parse.ly was built first and foremost for content, whereas other analytics platforms like Google, like Adobe, like Marketo or Pardot, they were built for other purposes, general website performance or email marketing. And then they moved over to the content areas that became more prevalent. We start in a different direction. We start with a content first mindset, and then we start including other things that overlap a little bit with these. For example, we track UTM parameters to help you understand the performance of your email marketing campaigns, like a Marketo or Pardot.

(55:23):

We track audience segments in a similar way that Google would, and we track different platforms in a similar way that Google would, but the real sense of why Parse.ly is different is, because everything was built with showcasing the power and impact of content in mind, and that started from day one.

Nick Gernert (55:42):

Great, okay. Thank you on that one. Probably let’s see, I’ve got a couple… these are coming in together, so I’m going to combine a couple of questions here. Anastasia asks specifically around, “Hey, my org is both a Parse.ly customer and a VIP customer. Any insights you want to share from a product roadmap, where the two platforms are more directly integrated, things like this?” There’s a few questions that are aligned here in this. Justin, you also asked around should we expect a benefit as Parse.ly customers and things like this. Real quickly on this and how we’re thinking about this, yes, you should absolutely expect to benefit from this in bringing this together.

(56:22):

Actually Anastasia, I would encourage you to reach out to us, reach out to the team that you know and love here on VIP to actually have a direct conversation about this. I would encourage anybody that’s a current customer to do that, and reach out to us about this. Early places you’re going to start seeing these things coming together are Parse.ly analytics coming much more directly into WordPress administration, the dashboards, things like this that you’re already leveraging today. Our initial priority is saying how do we bring insights closer to where the work is happening in doing that. So, focus is happening there right now.

(56:56):

As well though, something really exciting that isn’t really analytics related, but is definitely we’re going to be talking about much more is around this aspect of how do we leverage what we know of content in its performance to help and personalize customer journeys? How do we help in the editorial process to help you understand how have things performed in the past, and how should I repeat that now and bringing those insights into the actual editorial process? So, think about personalized experiences, and the power and the scale of content that you’re managing now, how that might come together. Those are areas where we are immediately focused and thinking about this.

(57:34):

If you’re just a Parse.ly customer, for example, and not just. We look at this and saying like, “Look, we love Parse.ly as a standalone product. We think what it provides.” Two platforms well beyond even ours as WordPress is really wonderful. We do expect it to work best with WordPress into the future and even better with WordPress VIP, but I think what you can expect to see as a Parse.ly customer is now you have much more focus from an organization the size of Automattic now. So, Automattic as a whole has a ton of momentum at the moment. We’re bringing that momentum directly into Parse.ly’s own roadmap. We are actively investing in the product and engineering teams into go-to-market.

(58:16):

Every aspect of Parse.ly’s analytics business is now part of a broader enterprise focus business that Automattic has on WordPress VIP. These are going to be a one plus one equals 20 sort of situation here on that. As a Parse.ly customer, expect better customer experience, better customer service, improved product, all of those aspects as you go. We’re early and I’m really excited about that… Sachin, go for it. we have plenty of time…

Sachin Kamdar (58:39):

Yeah, just wanted to add one thing from the Parse.ly perspective, and it goes to what Will said earlier, analytics working for you, not you working for analytics. What made us so excited about joining the WordPress VIP team is we could actually do that more directly by helping to bring analytics data and insight, where most content creators live, which is inside of their CMS. To us, that was super exciting to make analytics work better for you, and not have to think about what report dashboard should I go to. We think that’s going to create a really nice experience. We’re still going to obviously like Nick said, invest in the Parse.ly dashboard.

(59:19):

And anybody that is producing content regardless of VIP is going to be able to leverage Parse.ly analytics, but we get giddy from a product perspective when we can think about ways we can blend the two together.

Nick Gernert (59:30):

Yeah, thanks Sachin. Will, thank you so much for joining us here today and-

Will Tuttle (59:35):

Thanks.

Nick Gernert (59:36):

… letting us pick your brain about life at Microsoft Xbox there and-

Sachin Kamdar (59:39):

And thank you Will.

Nick Gernert (59:39):

… your insights for sharing, super appreciate it. Sachin, thank you as well for joining. Everyone who’s on the webinar, thank you so much for joining us. We do this pretty regularly. We’re also going to maybe send you a survey. Please give us feedback. It only makes these things better for everyone else in the future too, so I appreciate that. Thank you again, have a great rest of your day. Bye.

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