Intel triples traffic to Web magazine in under a year

The chipmaker drove 657,000 unique visitors to its iQ site by betting the promotional budget on its best-performing stories.

If you’re spending money to promote your content, there are two ways to play it, says Intel’s Luke B. Kintigh.

You can act like a mutual fund manager, buying and holding your media promotions and hoping for the best. Or, like a day trader, you can shift money rapidly and double down on your high performers.

Intel chose the latter approach for its Web publication iQ, cutting its losses on less-popular content and promoting its best-read stories on channels such as Facebook, Outbrain, LinkedIn, Twitter, Taboola, and Reddit. Rather than reducing its page views, this strategy tripled iQ’s traffic in under a year.

Monthly unique visitors shot up to 657,000 unique visitors in September from 200,000-250,000 a year prior. That means the value of its promotional spending also shot up.

“We’ve seen five to six times the traffic delivered to our website for the same amount of budget,” says Kintigh, who is the semiconductor chipmaker’s global paid media and content strategist.

10 percent of content brings 90 percent of page views

Intel developed its approach after it realized that 10 percent of its content brings 90 percent of the page views. What if it could identify that top content right away, rather than at the end of the week, and reallocate its promotional budget to push the popular stories?

That way, Kintigh says, you’re making your media budget work harder and smarter for you, rather than squandering money on content that’s not performing. Suddenly, instead of paying $3 to $4 per click, you will find yourself paying 5 cents per click.

Intel’s iQ handles stories about people doing amazing things in technology, from health care to music. The current issue features stories like “Craft Beer’s High-Tech Future,” ” Quantified Self for Babies With New BabyGuard Wearable,” and “How the Box Score Created a Multibillion-Dollar Fantasy Sports Industry.”

The content is created by both Intel staff and its stable of freelancers, says Kintigh, who was formerly managing editor. In 2012, iQ was publishing 10-15 original stories per month. That has jumped to 70-80 per month, giving Intel “the volume to optimize, to find the winners,” he says.

But how to reallocate that spending quickly enough to make a difference? SimpleReach, which helps brands and publishers promote editorial content, delivers real-time data, helping Intel to adjust on the fly, Kintigh says.

SimpleReach states that it provides real-time visibility and detailed historical reporting into how content performs through metrics such as reach, engagement, and social activity.

Signaling trends

Many publishers pay to promote their editorial work on social platforms, but they are reluctant to disclose the practice due to “misplaced negative stigma,” Edward Kim, CEO of SimpleReach, told Digiday in a piece about Intel. SimpleReach works with companies such as The Atlantic, Forbes, Gawker, and The New York Times, but only a third of them pay to promote content, Digiday reports.

The technology signals Intel about what is trending, allowing the company to activate or double down on spending on a piece of content, Kintigh says.

In an article that goes up at 8 a.m., Intel can decide, in Kintigh’s words: “It’s noon now. It’s been published for four hours, but based on the traffic, it’s projected to hit a certain threshold.” iQ can then promote the story on Twitter, Facebook, or another channel.

One of best performing posts from September’s top achievers was a story about an Intel Developer Forum, headlined, “10 Mind-Bending Maker Inventions at IDF14.” It lured readers with reports that “spiderbots, a spinball game and mood-sensing clothes turn a technology industry forum into a maker’s circus.”

Illustrating the power of the handful of hot performers, that story alone received 108,000 unique visitors, the majority from StumpledUpon and Facebook, although Intel also promoted it on Twitter, ShareThrough, Outbrain, and Taboola.

iQ sometimes experiments on individual posts, promoting them on different social media platforms and seeing where it takes off. The successful ones get a boost in ad spending. iQ also experiments with headlines and images to see which ones do best.

The image delivers the impact

“The image really delivers the most impact,” Kintigh says. “Not that copy doesn’t matter, but the visual is going to be really the key difference-maker.”

The obvious question is, can iQ apply lessons learned data a step earlier, so that editors don’t waste time assigning stories that won’t be well read?

Kintigh says, however, that iQ wants to use its insights to inform what it does, not over-rely on data. Production is more of an art, whereas distribution is a science, he adds.

“Some content may have a much more narrow audience for it,” he says, “but if we’re able to reach them, although the numbers may not match up … there’s still a lot of value there.”

iQ is also strategically sequencing content to readers, so that those who have read stories on a particular topic will have similar pieces offered to them through Twitter or Facebook ads in the future.

How about return on investment?

This is a tougher question for a thought leadership platform from a company that doesn’t directly sell to consumers, but which manufactures components used in Dell and HP computers. Intel is trying to move beyond clicks and page views to measuring engagement and time spent on the page.

“We’ve learned how to optimize based on performance and efficiency,” Kintigh says, “but the next level for us it really figuring out how to also optimize off post-click action.”


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