Ross Schwaber, Senior Director of Product at Bleacher Report, and Mark Frigon, VP of Products at Interana, discuss how to use analytics to adapt to a changing media landscape, build data-driven products, and personalize the customer experience.
Bleacher Report, a digital publisher of sports-related content, was founded more than a decade ago in 2007. It goes without saying that the media landscape looked much different back then. Rapid technology advancements and changing consumer behaviors have impacted the way online publishers build their brands.
Ross Schwaber, Senior Director of Product at Bleacher Report, focuses on product and he’s seen first-hand how industry changes have affected the company’s product strategy.
Historically, Bleacher Report published content to their website and used search to reach their intended audience. To tap into the growing popularity of social media and adapt to the changes in Google’s search algorithms, Bleacher Report launched an app that aggregated their content as well as sports-related content from other publishers.
This led to noticeable changes in audience growth and user engagement, and a shift in strategy. “Now we’re trying to go beyond being a publisher and transforming ourselves into a platform,” Ross says. “How do we take those conversations around sports and move them into our app and really form a community to give our users a great value add?”
To do that, Bleacher Report has teamed up with Interana, a product analytics platform, to use data to attract, retain, and grow their community of sports fanatics.
Mark Frigon, VP of Products at Iterana, outlined three steps that Ross and the Bleacher Report team put into practice to create a data-driven product offering.
First, understand your customers and the different ways they interact with and use your product. Second, segment those customers based on their different behaviors and experiences with the product. Third, use the segmented data to deliver personalized experiences to customers.
“We collect about 6 billion data points a month about how people use our app, so that we can improve the experience,” says Ross.
He cites an interesting example specific to Bleacher Report to illustrate his point, noting that a sports app lends itself to many seasonal users. Some sports fans only care about football, others are avid followers of MLB, and many like to follow every sport, for example. Using data to track each user segment’s consumption behaviors helps personalize content and grow the audience.
“It’s [about] discovering the other things you’re interested in and pushing you towards those. Can we get you to follow different streams in the app?” he says. “Using a platform like Interana helps us understand our customers and push them towards that behavior […] so we can push the content that is the most relevant.”
When analyzing data, some best practices include collecting data from multiple sources to make sure you’re capturing a full picture of your customer’s experience. Mark also suggests measuring and optimizing against multiple KPIs. He stresses, however, that the specific KPIs you should concern yourself with depend on the business model. Perhaps more importantly, you should embrace iteration when making data-driven decisions.
“What’s really valuable is being able to ask the question yourself and to iterate and ask the next question after that, as opposed to asking the question and knowing what you’re looking for, and getting just the answer to that question,” he says. “The ability to iterate on questions and explore and do discovery is quintessential to having a data-driven culture.”
Bleacher Report did exactly that with a recent product, using their learnings to inform strategy. By studying usage metrics and segmenting users based on their behavior in the app, Ross’ team tailored the onboarding experience for first-time app users to convert them into long-term app users.
Understanding user behavior didn’t come easily to the team at Bleacher Report. But using data can bring about significant product changes and innovation, and by tapping into that capability, Bleacher Report has been able to combat major challenges in the media industry.
You’ll learn a lot from this episode about how to use analytics to understand business outcomes and create customer-centric experiences.
Here are the highlights:
- How search and social reshaped the digital media and publishing industries (2:45)
- Bleacher Report’s approach to understanding their customers and delivering personalized experiences (6:38)
- Why iteration is so important when making data-driven decisions (11:47)
- The importance of factoring in all consumer touchpoints when gathering and analyzing data (20:42)
- How to create a data-driven culture (24:52)