News agencies remain a key source of news for media brands. News agency PA Media sought out smartocto to facilitate a more complete analysis of their output performance.

Of course, being a news agency this was never going to be an average use case. Without your own audience platform, how will you be able to know the true value of your stories?

What they learned is widely applicable.

The player

PA Media:

  • Multimedia news agency, and the national news agency of the United Kingdom and Ireland
  • Founded in 1868
  • Part of PA Media Group Limited, a private company with 26 shareholders, most of whom are national and regional newspaper publishers
  • In 2022, it is estimated that PA stories were used to create:
  • - 8.6m online articles
  • - 150k print articles in national daily newspapers
  • - 2.3m story views by journalists on their Explore platform

Smartocto and PA Media are hosting a webinar about the collaboration, 29th June. Register right now!

The pain point

What if you don’t have an audience platform? How do you then monitor and manage what you publish?

PA Media, like other press agencies, has internal platforms. The agency can't see how their content is performing on their client's websites - at least not without permission... (we'll get back to that later)

Traditional analytics products are not suited to their model. As a result, they have an incomplete idea of what their content is doing. They might be a critical part of the news cycle and chain, but they’re doing it blind.

  • They already had graphics, displaying basic metrics of engagement and usage
  • None of these were actionable in real time
  • Were able to see views, and what is downloaded
  • As their commercial strategy is based on usage, analytics are key to new account management focus. The sales team is constantly monitoring data on usage and engagement.

The process

By embracing analytics and data, PA Media is aware of what materials they should make in order to service clients better. News agencies remain the main supplier of news, but there’s a disconnect between what newsrooms want and what they get. Smartocto worked with PA Media to create a system that delivered the insights they needed, in a way that complemented their unique workflow and place in the market. The process centred around making the data they had at their disposal more actionable - and feed these learnings back into their planning.

Our purpose is to be our customers’ most trusted ally in an evolving media ecosystem, by delivering excellent journalism and related services. But the old way of doing things - of saying ‘it’s on the wire’ - isn’t helpful.

Peter Fabianski Head of Analytics and Insight @ PA Media

Notify the right people

Notifications are invaluable - but only when they’re appropriate and relevant. ‘Stream’ gives you an overview of all notifications and ensures that the right notifications get to the right people when they’re issued. The sports team are the ones best placed to get notifications about this area; headline writers those related to A/B testing. You get the gist.

And the thing linked with notifications is timing. When you’re in the business of being the first and most trusted source for breaking news, timing is everything. You absolutely don’t want to risk key bits of information being lost down the cracks.

“With access to real-time notifications, our teams are now able to react to demand and make informed decisions about which stories merit follow-ups and further enrichment - or conversely, see when a story has run its course”, says Peter Fabianski, Head of Analytics and Insight at PA Media.

With Stream, PA Media were able to customise their notifications and dashboard to ensure that the right information was getting to the right people. Because information is processed in real time, newsrooms - and news agencies - are able to keep on top of the wire, action those things of value, and delegate where appropriate.

Optimise work with a quadrant

Are there types of reports or content that are habitually produced without due consideration of their effectiveness or efficacy?

At PA Media, Peter highlights an example of this:

"We wondered: how many people are reading rugby league injury reports? We've always produced these on the assumption that some clients are getting value from them - but what do the numbers say?"

It turns out that very few actually did, which raises the following suggestions:

  • Could this be automated?
  • Could it be presented in another form or format?
  • Is it worth considering reducing the frequency of these reports?

Peter used smartocto’s Quadrant Model to help ascertain which articles were chronically underperforming. This is valuable because you can see at a glance what’s working - and what isn’t. ‘Reach Champions’ typically benefit from further enrichment; ‘Niche but Nice’ from an adjusted distribution strategy. Article types frequently landing in the ‘Basement bunch’ section might not be worth bothering with at all (or perhaps bothering with less frequently.

In the case of the Rugby League injury reports, these articles typically sat in the bottom left, so PA Media reduced their frequency.

The results

  • More aware of the importance of real time - within a news agency five minutes can make a lot of difference.
  • Actionability part has been invaluable - and delivering it to the newsroom in a format that’s digestible and easily integrated has been key

What’s next?

It’s now crucial that PA Media is sharing its newly obtained wisdom with the newsrooms they work with. “It's already so insightful, but if newsrooms are willing to share their impact data with news agencies, they can measure the whole flow. Everyone will benefit. If clients can share data it can help with production and commissioning - we’d know that clients need politics in the morning and business in the afternoon, for example.”

  • More agency-specific notifications
  • Integrate in the PA media workflow, Microsoft teams
  • Connect to the PA media data lake
  • Add historical and authors insights
  • Holy grail: newsroom client also sharing

What can your newsroom learn from this?

  • Keep it simple, but not simplistic
  • Honour your workflows and purpose
  • Iterate, iterate, iterate - where you’re at is fine. But where you’re going? Now that’s worth investing in