Data insights from one of Denmark’s leading tabloids

With a wealth of data on users’ behaviours and habits at their fingertips, news publishers may well be tempted to allow all decisions to be dictated by numbers. At Danish tabloid Ekstra Bladet, however, the final calls will always lie with journalists and editors, despite data affecting every aspect of the organisation.

by Simone Flueckiger | September 12, 2018

“At Ekstra Bladet we have built a very strong data culture throughout the organisation,” says the tabloid’s head of analytics, Kasper Worm-Petersen.

“Our goal is to let data inform as many of the decisions we make as possible. We do not wish to be data driven nor are we looking for full automation. We believe, especially when working with journalism, that the final decisions should be made by people, so we want our organisation to be data informed.”

WAN-IFRA recently caught up with Worm-Petersen to hear more about the balance between data insights and journalistic instinct, where data analytics has paid off the most at EB, and how GDPR has impacted advertising and audience engagement.

WAN-IFRA: How would you characterise the data analytics culture within EB, particularly in the newsroom?

Kasper Worm-Petersen: Our newsroom is constantly consulting the custom dashboards we have built for them and they are extremely respondent to new tendencies and behaviours among our users, which ensures that we always provide the most relevant experience.

We divide all our dashboards and reports into live, tactical, and strategic.

‘Live’ being the dashboards that journalists and editors consult on a minute by minute basis to constantly optimise the performance.

The tactical level consists of dashboards and reports that provide daily or weekly evaluations to allow for corrections if we are drifting off-course and not hitting KPI’s or to learn from strong performances.

The strategic level is monthly or quarterly statuses where the bigger picture is revealed, and we can react if we see a new tendency that we have not accounted for.

“The KPI’s are aligned across the live, tactical, and strategic levels, so if we succeed in our day-to-day operations we know that we will also succeed on our larger strategic goals.”

This provides coherence across the organisation and ensures that everyone is working towards the same goals.

Where is data / analytics having the biggest impact at EB today?

We see data having great impact in every aspect of our organisation but lately we have seen incredible results with our online subscriptions.

The strategic and tactical initiatives have been based on thorough data analysis and thanks to the agility our strong data culture affords us, we saw double-digit increases in both engagement and sales within two weeks of launching the new subscription strategy.

Can you elaborate on even more opportunities and potential by leveraging existing and new data, both editorially and commercially?

Obviously, the advances in machine learning and AI provide new opportunities, and we are seeing very promising results from our own endeavours in lead scoring and churn prevention to name a few.

However, I believe the biggest potential still lies in cultivating the internal data culture and ensuring the right data is in front of the right people at the right time. It is not fancy or shiny, but it is extremely effective in driving results when done right.

A dashboard built for front page editors showing CTRA dashboard built for front page editors showing CTR

How has GDPR impacted any of your audience engagement / advertising issues?

We welcome GDPR and believe that it will benefit both our readers and us as publishers in the long run.

From an audience engagement perspective, the biggest change has been that we have removed all Facebook scripts and other social scripts and widgets from our site.

We were already on the path of disengaging from Facebook, but GDPR was a convenient opportunity to fast-forward those initiatives and take back control of our audience.

“Regarding advertising, I think the entire industry is still trying to figure out how to respond to GDPR, and so far, the changes have not been as major as one could have expected.”

However, we do believe that GDPR and the coming e-privacy directive will make publishers own first-party data more valuable as third-party data tracking becomes increasingly challenged. So, we are focusing on further developing our first-party data capabilities.

In the newsroom, what are the primary tools that are driving content decisions? How much of that is off-the-shelf and / or developed in-house?

We have a lot of proprietary custom-built dashboards that our editors and journalists consult.

“With dashboards, less is more. We only want to show data points that the editors and journalists can and should act upon.”

Too much noise created by unnecessary numbers generate paralysis and hinders swift action. Many of the off-the-shelf tools are so generic that they fail to focus on the important numbers, so we have opted for building our own.

We also make in-depth exploratory analysis of new projects or on areas of specific strategic interest. But, the daily content decisions are informed by dashboards to ensure a quick feedback loop and a steep learning curve.

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