In 2022, 91 percent of the company’s traffic came from its front page. Which means less than 10 percent of the traffic came from other sources – which has proven to be a strength as well as a weakness.
Knut Arne Hansen, VG’s Frontpage Editor, joined WAN-IFRA’s recent Newsroom Summit and delved into the strategic alignment of their business model and analytics tools that drives the front page’s success.
“We are not affected by external changes by Meta, X or Google because we know our users come to us when things are happening in the world. But it’s also one of our weaknesses because we can’t fit all of VG’s content onto the front page,” Hansen said.
The content and metrics pie
Of the 5.4 million people in Norway, 2.4 million read VG every day.
The VG.no front page is loaded 18.7 million times a day, which is 216 times a second.
“A primary rule we follow is that breaking news gets precedence on the VG front page,” Hansen said adding, “However, there are also other things on our front page – food, fashion, technology, economy, VGTV, VG+, and VG News – articles from every division in VG.”
The guiding principle in editing the homepage is to feature 50 percent news, 20 percent premium content. The remaining 30 percent comprises the other categories.
The company has 290,000 premium users, and presently offers three subscription plans (this includes the holiday discount). The first one that provides access to VG+ sells for the Norwegian equivalent of 6.10 euros, VG+ Sport at approximately 9.20 euros and VG+ Total at about 11.06 euros.
Prioritising age and gender metrics
Like all homepages / front pages, VG aims to expose readers to the best of their content, but they also aim to drive them to the publisher’s other verticals, such as VG TV, VG Premium, etc.
To make this balance achievable, VG employs an array of tools and analytics.
The frontpage is managed by two people and the dashboard enables them with tracking metrics. It also has a section to log target clicks per minute, page views, quick exits, view time, articles fully read, etc.
“The Quick Exit tracker is a new tool, but one we use a lot. We want people to read our content. We want to be a tabloid, but we don’t want to click-bait,” he said, adding, “We don’t want articles to have a QE of over 20 percent, and our total QE on VG is not supposed to be over 30 percent.”
The company’s average reader is a 50-year-old man. To turn that around, they are trying to capture the attention of people in the 15-34 age group, and an important widget in the dashboard helps them track the reader demographic for every published piece of content.
There’s a similar widget to track female readership.
Another tool displays the build of the front page – deciding ad placement, and prioritising different stories from all of the brand’s verticals.
“From the top 10 rows (in the image underneath), we know to move the top row ad a row down, and that we should have two pieces of premium content and two from VGTV, and so on. We need this puzzle to be as clean as possible for everyone to reach their goals,” Hansen said.
Heavy A/B testing drives personalisation
Almost every story on VG that reaches the homepage gets A/B tested.
“We test a mix of titles, headlines, text and pictures to find a combination that helps us achieve our target footfall,” Hansen said.
A section of the dashboard allows the tracking of premium VG stories – click rate, sales, page views, etc.
“We have created variables right in the widget that show us what elements of the A/B testing work better to target female readers and young audiences,” he said.
The company is now trying to tailor the bottom 40 percent of the frontpage to fit varying user behaviours.
The data team helps the editorial team with what numbers they should be tracking. They also send out daily, weekly and monthly reports, analysing those metrics for the different organisational verticals as well as for the newsroom, overall.
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