February 7th, 2012
[Editor’s Note: This is the first post in a new Q&A series with Parse.ly Dash customers. Every other week we’ll be featuring an awesome publisher using Parse.ly Dash and digging into how they’re leveraging publisher-specific insights to better serve their readers and improve the prosperity of their business.]
We recently had the privilege to interview Janel Laban, the executive editor of Apartment Therapy. Apartment Therapy has been using Dash over the past year and have provided invaluable feedback that shaped the products we build at Parse.ly. Janel’s use of Dash’s publisher insights touches many aspects of their content, readers and editorial work flow. And, for the first time ever, we are very excited to shed some light on exactly how Dash is helping make great publishers even more awesome when put in the capable hands of great editors.
Parse.ly: What advantage does using Dash give you?
Apartment Therapy: I’m finding that I get a very fluid mix of “predictive”, “real time” and “historical” data from Dash that makes it a unique and vital tool. The flexibility of how we can slice up the information temporally as well as topically makes it unusually powerful for many different aspects of my day to day work; from reviewing our past posts, to making social media and other real-time decisions as well as planning future editorial calendars and events.
I’m feeling like I’ve gained a much deeper understanding of how the “long tail” posts figure into our overall picture. We’ve always known it was an important factor, because we create lots of evergreen content that gathers PVs over years, but now we have a clearer picture of the posts that are working for us in this way and how powerful that is.
Also, the support, training, troubleshooting and knowledge that have been shared with the editorial team by the folks at Parse.ly has been invaluable - any time you really know how to make the most of a tool (and have someone to ask when you think it might be able to do something great but you just aren’t quite sure exactly HOW) makes a difference.
Parse.ly: What are some of the primary use cases for Dash at Apartment Therapy?
Apartment Therapy: I’ve been using it most frequently at this point in time (end of year, as we work through final stages of redesign and planning for the upcoming year) as a review and planning tool. I’ve used it to (so quickly and easily!) pull specific-writer-only PV data to help prepare freelancer reviews on which of their posts have been most successful traffic wise in the past year. I also have been digging in to see which types of posts are consistently appealing to our readers when establishing which categories to feature in our new design and to help with monthly theme and event planning for the new year, along with a rethink of some of our social media strategies.
Parse.ly: What new features would be most useful to your business?
Apartment Therapy: Addition of “Design” or “Home” to the pre-established Hot Topics section (and “Food” for our sister site, The Kitchn). Limited access accounts for freelancers.
Parse.ly: Do you use Dash more for getting more value out of existing content, help determine what new content you should create, or to evaluate performance of authors, topics, posts, etc?
Apartment Therapy: Since this is the first really user-friendly, fast tool that I’ve tried for evaluating performance in different ways, that has been my main use of it so far. Being able to see a writers history of how posts performed over time in a few clicks is hugely helpful for reviews. Also, looking deeply at how posts continue to perform over longer periods of time has been invaluable, moving from a best of the day/week/month concept of performance view to a much longer, yet still very specific, view is factoring strongly into my editorial projects planning.
Parse.ly: A lot of people are talking about different types of data journalism, but few people are really doing it. As one of the early movers on this trend, what is the most important lessons you’ve learned?
Apartment Therapy: I’ve been working on Apartment Therapy for a long time, and as analytics tools become more refined, its like walking from a dark room to the sunlight. A game changer, for the better. It doesn’t necessarily impact the spirit of the work we produce - that comes from wanting to create and share good, inspiring, helpful content - but it allows us to refine our understanding of how it’s received, which in turn has increased my commitment to creating high-quality content. It takes out some guesswork on the basic stuff and creates room for the creativity and energy that is a big part of blogging to happen and be recognized, and not lost in the flow.
It’s all about the mix - learning that some posts do really well in the short term (and you need to make the most of them when it’s happening) and others are consistent performers over time (and they are worth cultivating and refreshing on a regular basis) allows us to value different types of performers and find ways to more consistently create both types and feature them in varying ways over time to get them out to as many of our interested readers (and readers-to-be!) as possible. It allows for the learning and improving component of being an online writer/editor/publisher to be ongoing and robust, which in turn, keeps the work fulfilling and rewarding.
– Janel Laban, Executive Editor of Apartment Therapy