Using free data tools for editorial planning

Mega publishers like Meredith, AIM or Conde Naste have some pretty heavy duty analytics tools for both audience analysis and for use in developing editorial strategies. The good news is, single title publishers or even mid-size ones that can’t afford the big budget spends of the large publishers, can use a variety of tools to help inform editorial strategy.
Here we provide some insight into which tools you can use and how to use them. They’re largely free or at a reasonable cost. Most are designed for marketers to use to gain audience insights and hone their social media. You just have to look at them with a different eye to leverage them for editorial purposes.
Google Analytics
The primary purpose of Google Analytics (GA to most) is of course, understanding your website traffic and figuring out how to grow traffic. But it can be used by editors and journalists to understand what content is most engaging on a site and what terms people entered in search engines to give you a sense of reader interests. You’ll want to focus on the Behaviour section, looking at site content, content drill down and landing pages. Site search can help as well.  You can also explore audiences to gain a sense of interests of readers. The free version is pretty good. If your publication leverages Google AdWords and it’s connected with GA, you’ll have access to added insights.
Social Media Tools
Services like Buffer and HootSuite and similar, are primarily for scheduling content posting and then analysing what performs best to drive audience engagement. But they too can be used by editorial teams. As a writer/editor, you’ll want to use the analytics to understand the topics people are most interested in as well as any clues to seasonality. Most tools have a free version, but with limited analytics. The paid versions can run between $10/month up to thousands for larger enterprises/brands.
There is a free version of Tableau which is a Big Data analytics tool in the Cloud. The paid version is fairly cost-effective starting at $15/month (as of writing.) Keep in mind though that you have to bring your own data or you can leverage some of their public data libraries.
Google Trends
Another google product, but Trends helps you understand what audiences are interested in. You can compare topics as well and it takes about 5 minutes to learn how to use it. Approached in the right way, it can be incredibly powerful.
Google Public Data
This Google tool we’ll share is their public data analysis.  You can load in your own data or use their publicly available data sets to run all kinds of fun stuff through it. It’s quite powerful and pulls from open government sources, mostly in the U.S. though.
Google Data Studio
The final tool from Google is Data Studio. Think of it as your own free Big Data analytics tool. Bring your own data, integrate it with GA above or AdWords and upload whatever you want, including Excel spreadsheets. It can help in finding editorial ideas or in doing investigative reporting work.
There are some other tools out there, but this is a great list to get you started. It’s just a matter of looking at the data through the eyes of a journalist or editor and asking different questions than a marketer might.
We’ve helped a few publishers bring these tools together and provided some training. We recommend setting up a workflow process for using these tools. If you have marketing or audience development folks on your team, chances are they’re using at least one of these tools. Have a chat with them, you’ll learn some cool new things.

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