How Bloomberg is fighting to reclaim homepage traffic

By Lucia Moses

Publishers are struggling with the decline in home page traffic across the board. Bloomberg Media thinks it has found a remedy: When it relaunched its technology vertical in October, Bloomberg decided to ditch the infinite scroll at the end of articles and send people to the vertical’s homepage instead.

“The trend across media is the slow decline of direct traffic to homepages,” said M. Scott Havens, global head of digital for Bloomberg Media. “In the process of building our new Bloomberg Technology vertical, we asked ourselves: How can we bring the homepage to users?”

Three months in, Bloomberg is encouraged by the new feature, which it called Boomerang. The hack has only so far been applied to the tech vertical, where it has seen a sevenfold increase in monthly page views in the three months after the channel’s launch compared to the six months before the launch.

Engagement has also gone up. People who were served the homepage on average have viewed 28 percent more pages per visit than those who were served another article via an algorithm-driven infinite scroll.

“The main thing I wanted to see is, we got people more engaged by exposing them to not one article that’s probably the wrong one, but a bevy of articles,” Havens said.

Based on the initial results of Boomerang, Havens said Bloomberg will probably roll it out to its other verticals, which include opinion and politics. From a sales perspective, having higher impressions and engagement rates is a good selling point with advertisers, and more homepage visits mean more opportunity to sell high-impact ad units.

Bloomberg isn’t alone in rethinking or giving up on the infinite scroll to keep readers more engaged. The Atlantic ditched the infinite scroll when it redesigned its site in 2015 in favor of other tactics to keep people on site longer. Forbes also got rid of the feature recently after finding it didn’t do much to get people reading more articles.

Boomerang also challenges the idea that many publishers are chasing, that personalization is the key to keeping people around longer. That finding has implications beyond the editorial side, Havens said.

“It goes for the advertising side — are we overtargeting people versus brand advertising and reaching an audience that’s not exposed to a product?” he said. “You go deep personalization, and algorithms can be wrong. You can’t get into someone’s mind at any given time.”

This article originally appeared on our sister site, Digiday.

Why the Financial Times still believes in comment sections

Why the Financial Times still believes in comment sections

In times of belt-tightening, the Financial Times is making more data-informed decisions around audience development. For this reason, it is improving its approach to comments and commenters on site.

With a lot of conversation having migrated to social media, it’s not uncommon for some publishers — like The Telegraph, for example — to ax its comments section entirely. But the FT believes its readers are paying to be part of this community and to take part in the debate.

Up until recently, the strategy around comments was more about damage control. Last year, Renée Kaplan joined as head of audience engagement and has built up an 11-person team. Now that team is getting more proactive and is using comments as a tool for engagement. “For other media companies, the comment strategy is more about growth,” said Kaplan. “For the FT, we have a unique commitment to make something of these comments, the readers are entitled to being part of the quality conversation and what the community has to offer.”

Currently, FT readers can comment on news stories, analysis and opinion pieces, where the highest volume of comments is. The FT routinely disables comments on more explosive news stories, though — Russian politics, climate change, Islamic extremists — because no productive discourse took place here.

That said, here’s how its strategy is shaping up.

Putting a commercial value on the commenter.
Only subscribers can post comments; therefore, the FT already knows a lot about them. Not enough, though. Leading the research into understanding the commercial value of commenters is community manager Lilah Raptopoulos.

“We want to know whether they are, as we suspect, our most engaged users,” said Raptopoulos. “We need to understand what the commercial correlation is, what effect does a comment have on our subscribers, will commenters share more, or visit the site more often?” Anecdotally, the team has hunches about these hypotheses, but for now, this is a work in progress.

Extending the audience.
Comments have been also a springboard to bring in new, younger audiences, crucial for a heritage brand like the FT wanting to stay relevant.

The comments on a recent story called “Why millennials go on holiday instead of saving for a pension” were overwhelmingly left by older readers and showed a real lack of understanding about young people. So Raptopoulos jumped in calling out for younger voices, and cross-promoted the call-out on social media too.

Shout out to all those financially-minded millennials
Shout out to all those financially-minded millennials

As a result, the FT received around 15 more comments from younger people. Kaplan thinks it’s unlikely they would have been subscribers; instead, they took the time to sign up to the one-month trial subscription which costs £1 for one month in order to comment. This led to its own piece on the most interesting comments, leading to another 150 comments.

Getting journalists to care.
In a shrinking newsroom, getting reporters to care about comments is a challenge, making it all the more important to have this data-informed research on the value of a commenter.

“Newsrooms tend to hate comments,” admitted Kaplan. “They’re a pain. There are trolls. People feel abused.” Kaplan’s team developed best practices, based on the minority of journalists who are already engaging with commenters. Tips included tricks for turning around a negative tone and for leading the conversation offline.

Shaping article ideas.
The FT is not typically a publication that goes in for crowdsourcing article ideas, but there are occasions where the personal experience of its readers is proving to be particularly enriching, triggering leads and story ideas.

Rather than hoping for the best from comments, the FT is playing with different formats in the space under articles and seeing which ones work the best for feedback. This private call-out box was placed underneath a news story about how Brexit would impact U.K. expats living in Europe. People could anonymously give feedback on their own experience knowing that their responses would help the journalism. It also went out in newsletters to subscribers interested in Brexit, and under other relevant stories. In 48 hours, the FT received 350 responses from U.K. expats in 45 stories, on their experiences, which are being used to shape an interactive piece for the site.

Comment callouts to shape future pieces
Comment callouts to shape future pieces

Trolls are subscribers too.
Just because the FT has a paywall, that doesn’t shield it from trolls. Like other publications, it will delete posts that are defamatory, personal attacks or outright false. Users have three strikes before they are shut down. Comments are moderated practically 24 hours a day, and if something is deleted or a warning is sent, Raptopoulos is in there saying why and linking to the guidelines.

But these people are paying for the privilege to engage in debate, so it’s a double-edged sword. “Outright banning is never the right approach,” said Kaplan. “We’re not here to censor.”

“We see the value of comments as fundamentally good,” adds Raptopoulos. “We’re more interested in encouraging better conversation than just chastising the bad.”

This article originally appeared on Digiday.

How financial media firms are monetizing as readership changes

monetizing financial media

Financial media, like media in general, finds itself in a post-periodical era. Traditional publications have seen their influence decrease as media has become nosier and readers require more authenticity from publishers. While it’s challenging to run a media company in an environment like this, some larger publications like the FT and WSJ have generally rejiggered their businesses for the modern era.

This transition from old media to new media has been played out in the public and M&A markets. Today’s markets reward companies like 7-year old Business Insider, which recently sold to Germany’s Axel Springer for over $400 million. Compare that to the price fetched ($1.2 billion) by the venerable Financial Times when it was acquired last year by Japan’s Nikkei. The FT was launched in 1888. BI built its following not on breaking news, like the FT does, but on overlaying a brief analytical layer to help its readers make sense of the news. And BI gets you to click on their stories (and not the FT’s) by employing eye-catching headlines.

For its part, the WSJ, a Dow Jones property and owned by News Corp, has developed its digital presence to rival its print. That meant creating new products and in some way, developing an entirely new audience. The WSJ continues to experiment with new social channels, was the first financial publisher to appear on Snapchat, and recently announced that messaging app, Line, has been its fasting growing channel, reaching over 2 million followers.

WSJ and social channels

But as it’s become harder to support a traditional journalism-led content team, in its place have risen more niche, Internet-native publications. The same is true in financial media. In an environment that values both quantity and quality of content, niche sites can be more nimble, creative, and communicative — an advantage over larger, incumbent media companies.

“Niche content and the websites that create it are gaining traction versus mainstream financial media,” explained Nikesh Desai, founder and CEO of InvestingChannel, a speciality advertising network for financial publishers. “The ability to have an open dialogue with a community beyond the standard social stuff like Twitter is also very different.” That’s Business Insider’s flashy articles and busy comment sections versus the button-down FT.

Content is still king, according to Desai, when it comes to the DNA required to grow a successful financial media company. But today’s content is also changing — it’s a different animal. It requires a mix of form factors and creative display to make content engaging for today’s readers. Desai says that content should be “snackable” — brief, easy-to-consume content that readers can read on the fly and are happy to share with their networks. Financial publishers are employing more and more infographics, video, and other engagement tools, like surveys made popular by millennial content platform, PlayBuzz.

Creating content that works on today’s newsreaders and social media channels requires shuffling the chairs around in a newsroom and hiring for different skillsets. Today’s successful financial media firms don’t wall-off their journalists from the rest of the organization. “You need a data and technology team that sits right next to editorial; an advertising team that sits next to a UI team. We’ve seen what BuzzFeed, Vox, Mic and others are able to do when mixing content, social, data, and technology together,” Desai told Tradestreaming. In finance, he cites Bloomberg, Business Insider, and StockTwits as doing a relatively good job adapting to the demands of Internet readers. But the road is still long and the opportunity to emerge in a leadership position in financial content is still great.

Forbes described how its restructured its newsroom to make it more Internet-friendly. As content platforms are increasingly using data to underscore their content, advertising networks are looking to data, as well, to support their clients. Financial publishers are turning to companies like InvestingChannel and Chartbeat to help them understand their audiences better and create content that’s truly engaging. It’s happening more and more in real time and this sensitivity to readership also means advertisers can richer targeting options.

Today’s financial publishers demand it. “2016 is the year of data for us,” Desai said. “This means data to make our core network business smarter in terms of targeting, optimization, as well as to create new ad products and efficiencies for our business. We’re also using data as a way to scale into the exchange to find valuable audiences anywhere on the web. Lastly, data is helping us create content and build audiences.”


Photo credit: Thomas8047 via Visual Hunt / CC BY

3 big opportunities for the real-time financial web (Future of investing)

This post was originally included as part of an ebook that I published alongside the launch of my book, Tradestream, entitled “Tradestreaming and the Future of Investing”. The content was so good I wanted everyone to have access to it.

This one’s from David Jackson, founder and CEO of leading investment community, Seeking Alpha (and my old boss :-))


With the growth of Twitter, the introduction of updates by Facebook and the inclusion of real-time comments in search results, it’s clear that the real-time Web is having a profound impact on media. Which raises the question: Will the real-time Web transform financial content?

Financial media is naturally real-time because, in financial markets, faster delivery of information can mean real money. So it’s not surprising that a mature industry devoted to getting the most relevant financial news to people in real-time has already developed. Sophisticated real-time products are offered by providers of terminals, news wires, press releases and news organizations. They deliver news instantaneously, filtered according to users’ needs (for example by ticker symbol or industry). Real-time financial news has trickled down to free financial websites and portals, which themselves offer real-time financial news coverage.

But this still leaves three opportunities for real-time updates in finance. The first is technical (chart) commentary for day traders. The most active Twitter users who write about stocks, for example, are day traders. Day trading isn’t Seeking Alpha’s focus (most day traders lose money, and our mission is to help people invest well), so we’re happy to leave short-term, real-time technical analysis to others.

The second opportunity is real-time updates of fundamental analysis. Seeking Alpha’s contributors write in depth analysis of stocks. But their viewpoints can change as companies report quarterly financial results, competitors launch products, or the landscape changes in other ways. We think that short, real-time updates complement in-depth analysis, even for investors with a longer time horizon. We’re finding that an increasing number of our article authors use StockTalk, our “Twitter optimized for
stocks” product.

The third opportunity for the real time Web is mining Tweets and updates for information about companies’ businesses. Which products are gaining traction? Does a company have a PR catastrophe unfolding in real-time? It’s hard to do a good job of surfacing and filtering business information which is impactful enough to move stocks. If you know of anyone who does that, let me know. 🙂

*—> Like what you see? Hey! Don’t forget to subscribe to the free Tradestreaming newsletter for updates, tips, and special offers

David Jackson is the founder and CEO of Seeking Alpha. He started his career as a macro-economist at HM Treasury in London and The Bank of Israel, and later moved to Morgan Stanley in New York as a technology research analyst covering the communications equipment sector.

Bloomberg beefing up reflects good things for financial industry

I’ve written about previously (here and here) about Bloomberg’s expansion bloombergand eventual dominance of financial media from news to data and consumer.  The WSJ reports today that indeed, Bloomberg is forecasting a respectable 10% growth rate for 2010 and plans to add an additional 1300 employees.

The revenue gains would come largely from a projected increase of 12,000 subscriptions to the Bloomberg Professional service, which provides data, analytics and news geared to financial-services professionals.

Bloomberg’s revenue for last year was estimated at $6.25 billion, according to a person familiar with the matter. Based on that estimate, the new projections would push revenue to nearly $6.9 billion this year.

Growth is good for Bloomberg and ostensibly, the media giant is seeing increased demand for its terminals from institutional investors — a sign that things are picking up on Wall Street and Stamford, CT.

With the recent acquisition of BusinessWeek and content sharing deals that land Bloomberg content on the WaPost and beyond, Bloomberg is turning up the manheat on Dow Jones.

Be afraid, be very afraid.