Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
A Swiss publisher is trying to attract a paying audience with an app sampling stories across publications
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Sept. 2, 2015, 12:06 p.m.
Reporting & Production
tagscc

Do article tags matter? Maybe not for traffic, but publishers are using them to glean insights

Analytics company Parse.ly found that sites are expanding their use of article tags to track sponsored content and control paywall access.

Like all Nieman Lab stories, the one you’re reading right now will be anchored by a handful of tags connected to the themes, people, and companies mentioned within. Theoretically, keywords like “tags,” “tagging,” “article tags,” and “metadata” would be helpful in directing people to this, or other, stories, about the mechanics of news discovery.

But do all publishers use article tags the same way we do? And do tags make any difference in attracting people to a website? A new report from analytics company Parse.ly found no statistical link between the use of tags and the amount of traffic a site received — but also saw publishers using tags in creative ways to help guide strategy. (Sites that use Parse.ly include The Atlantic, Slate, Mashable, Business Insider, The Globe and Mail, The New Republic, and Upworthy, among about 400 total.)

In that network, 70 percent reported using tags and 30 percent said they go without. On average, 450 tags were published in a month, with the actual number of tags per post averaging 5.2. Parse.ly found no correlation between the number of overall tags published and audience size, and the number of tags per story didn’t change much with story length. ” Essentially, if we increase the word count of an article from one word to 10,000 words, the average number of tags in the article only increases by around 0.36,” the report found.

(Here at Nieman Lab, we’re relatively aggressive taggers, with over 13,000 tags used on our roughly 5,000 articles published since 2008. But our tag pages account for only about 1 percent of our pageviews. Our 10 most common tags? The New York Times, Twitter, business models, Facebook, advertising, social media, Google, paywalls, the Knight Foundation, and mobile.)

Despite the fact that tags are usually user-facing, their most important uses may be internal to news organizations. “In the last couple of years, we’ve noticed that tags are being used in more interesting ways,” said Andrew Montalenti, chief technical officer at Parse.ly.

Parse.ly’s findings suggest that publishers are making advances in how they use structured data in content production and audience analysis. Companies are moving beyond simply using tags as a way to surface stories on Google or in an archive. Specifically, Parse.ly found that publishers are using tags to categorize article formats (stories vs. quizzes vs. videos), paywall status, and sponsored content.

That same organizational ability to find, filter, and sort stories is being used to route different processes in the newsroom, Montalenti said. A site that runs native ads could track and report on specific campaigns based on tags for native content and the accompanying brand. Or, in the case of a site like The Globe and Mail, tags could be used to indicate which stories are only available to subscribers and which are available to everyone.

Last year, Joshua Lasky, a marketing manager at Atlantic Media Strategies, wrote about new ways how media outlets could use tags:

There’s a certain amount of content optimization that can be done here. Think if you were to tag articles based on whether they included a video; you could then analyze whether having this element improved article performance. This would help you to decide whether it made sense to embed more videos in the future.

In July, The New York Times offered a glimpse of a new automated tagging tool under development in its Research and Development Lab. Alexis Lloyd, creative director of the Lab, said that such tools will let the Times mine its archive to create new products in the future.

Photo of gift tags by Cutie Pie Company used under a Creative Commons license

POSTED     Sept. 2, 2015, 12:06 p.m.
SEE MORE ON Reporting & Production
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
A Swiss publisher is trying to attract a paying audience with an app sampling stories across publications
Tamedia’s 12-App collects the 12 best stories each day from the company’s 20-plus publications.
What does it take to be a “full-service” digital journalism organization? Ask Discourse Media
“We’ve gone down lots of experimental rabbit holes.”
Spain’s Eldiario.es has 18,000 paying members, and its eye on the next several million
“We have a potential of six million readers. You may not convince all six million people to be your socios, but if you learn more about their interests, you can get closer.”
What to read next
0
tweets
Newsonomics: In the platform wars, how well are you armed?
“Think about platforms as fishing places where you can find large, engaged audiences and build a relationship with them by providing content. Then offer these users some other services off-platform.”
0BuzzFeed is building a New York-based team to experiment with news video
It is the “center of a Venn diagram” between BuzzFeed Motion Pictures and BuzzFeed News.
0Newsonomics: Can a Bezos buddy act help fend off Gannett’s bid for Tribune?
Tribune Publishing’s Michael Ferro says he wants to bring The Washington Post’s Arc CMS to its newspapers. Is that a grasp at credibility or a model for other news companies to outsource their tech stacks?
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Fuego is our heat-seeking Twitter bot, tracking the links the future-of-journalism crowd is talking about most on Twitter.
Here are a few of the top links Fuego’s currently watching.   Get the full Fuego ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
Spot.Us
PolitiFact
Chi-Town Daily News
Facebook
Fwix
Examiner.com
The New Republic
MSNBC
Google
The Miami Herald
Los Angeles Times
Daily Mail