Quinnipiac Assignment #05 – Basic Web Analytics
Instead of creating a video, this week we wrote essays about basic web analytics. I covered Maps of India and NESN (again). Below is my essay about NESN.
Company Brand Overview
New England Sports Network (NESN) is a regional television channel with a wide and varied social mediapresence and an emphasis on New England sports, although national and international events are also covered. The industry is cable (Xfinity) media; their home page is: http://nesn.com/, which is a WordPress blog.
The company’s Twitter handle is @NESN (https://twitter.com/NESN). Their Facebook page is at: https://www.facebook.com/NESN. Their Google+ page is at: https://plus.google.com/+NESN/posts. Their Pinterest board is here: http://www.pinterest.com/nesn/. Their Tumblr blog is here: http://tumblr.nesn.com/.
This report will cover certain quantitative metrics for NESN, in an effort to understand whether their online campaigns and presences are providing fullest value. I will concentrate on the channel’s website and will only touch upon their social presence on various platforms.
Company Business Objectives
For NESN, their objectives appear to be to draw offline traffic to their television programming, and to increase clicks on advertisements found peppered throughout the website. The objectives for their social media presences appear to solely be to direct traffic back to the website, although a secondary objective is probably to increase offline viewership for the television channel.
NESN’s home page changes; advertisements and stories evolve from day to day and even hour to hour. The basic layout is of a top menu with drop downs, with a banner ad just beneath it. The live blog is in the upper left corner (it has the largest news image on the page), with top stories also available above the fold. A second ad is in the upper right corner, with a video just below it. These videos mainly seem to be interviews and short highlights; there are video ads interspersed in there. I believe these are similar to, if not the same as, the ads that a viewer would see on television.
Scrolling below the fold, just below the videos, there is a static list of website sponsor logos. There are more links to stories (all story links have an image) and then there are, on the right, links off the site which go to Zergnet, an entertainment website. Circling back, the center has News Max headlines (and links), and on the left are more video ads. Below these, there are more links to stories. There’s a long vertical skyscraper ad on the right, yet another video ad on the left and then, at the very bottom, there are links to various sports topics (e. g. horse racing), NESN’s sources, and even their social media pages. Interesting enough, their Pinterest page is not listed; perhaps it is new.
The entire website is overlaid over yet another ad as the background image. I counted nineteen advertisements: the overlay, the top banner, three videos, the upper right corner, the twelve sponsor logos, and the skyscraper. This does not include various smaller banners, such as one for Red Sox Nation which contains the Dunkin’ Donuts logo. This total also does not include the links to Zergnet and News Max.
The Twitter page shows a rather plain background and a branded logo being used for an avatar. Recent tweets are listed chronologically and there does not seem to be a chosen highlighted tweet. There are no advertisements on the Twitter home page itself. Tweets are a mix of programming news, images, and links to videos and less timely content, such as an interview with Ted Williams’s daughter which could have conceivably been tweeted any day this month. NESN has 164,000 followers.
The Facebook page (this image is a little older, but the design has not changed in the past two weeks) has a branded background image and logo for an avatar. Wall posts vary, and can be photos, status updates, or sports opinion pieces. NESN has 222,000 likes.
The Google+ page had the same plain background as on Twitter. NESN has just under 31,000 followers.
There were twenty-one pin boards. But NESN has fewer than 220 followers! This figure is comparable to my own following on Pinterest, and I don’t have an advertising budget. However, I suspect that’s more due to the demographic disconnect (Pinterest is overwhelmingly female; sports fans are predominantly male) than anything else.
The Tumblr blog appeared to be a feed from the website. I cannot tell how many followers they have.
Compete.com’s most recent data for NESN was for April. The most interesting trend was to see the number of visitors spiking in October of 2013 and then April of 2014, probably due to the Boston Red Sox capturing a World Series trophy and then the Boston Bruins being in the NHL playoffs. There were nearly a million unique visitors in April.
As would be expected, according to Chartbeat, the site’s visitors geographically cluster around New England. However, there are also somewhat substantial numbers of viewers in California and Illinois. After the United States, the audience countries drop off dramatically, with Canada having only a 3% share of the audience.
According to Alexa, the average visitor views over two pages, however, the bounce rate is high, at nearly 80%. Time on site is less than two and a half minutes; presumably this is to quickly check scores and top stories and move on if the audience member fails to see anything new.
Chartbeat’s data was current, and showed that visitors came from a variety of traffic sources. Internal traffic was highest – although visitors were still bouncing off. Direct acquisition was the next-most common source of visitors, with links trailing a bit behind that, and then search. Social was dead last.
The top landing pages were the World Cup live stream and then the home page. After that, was a page about trade rumors about Carmelo Anthony, and then a more in-depth story about the World Cup.
Chartbeat’s view of NESN’s traffic sources showed key words and phrases. From the below screen shot, the most frequently-searched terms clearly had to do with the World Cup or Boston plus either the Bruins or the Red Sox. The mix of new visitors to returning was about 40% to 60% of all visitors, respectively.
Chartbeat lists top pages. Combining these with search, we can get an idea about landing pages. Searches for the World Cup are drawing the audience to the live stream. The second-most visited page is the home page, understandable for a site where the second-most common means of acquisition is direct clicking, and the third is linking.
Exit pages are more difficult to gauge but, since the top links are generally to home page ads, my assumption is that audience members are clicking on the ads and, therefore, are perhaps making a conversion, but they are also leaving the site.
Possible Ratings Boost
If NESN is using its online presence in order to bolster its offline television channel ratings, the cause and effect is unclear. According to Sports Video.org, April 2014 ratings were very high. However, those ratings seem to have been connected much more intimately to how the Boston Bruins were doing in the Stanley Cup playoffs, versus NESN’s campaigns on its blog and varied social media platforms. Per the article, “NESN earned a 12.7 average household rating in the Boston DMA [Designated Market Area] (20 share) for Tuesday’s [April 22] 3-0 Bruins win over Detroit, which marks the best Game 3 rating in NESN history and the second best rating for a game that was not in a series clinching scenario. The only game that was not a clinching scenario that garnered a higher rating was a double overtime Game 5 vs. Montreal in 2011, which averaged a 12.9 HH rating. The 12.7 HH rating on Tuesday now stands as the 10th best Bruins playoff rating in NESN history. NESN’s highest-rated Bruins game ever was Game 7 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Washington Capitals (4/25/12) which garnered a 19.6 HH rating (31 Share) in the Boston DMA.” (Emphasis mine)
Fully monetizing the website is clearly a major objective for NESN. How successful is it? Probably the ads found above the fold get the most clicks. Would ads for Dice (a jobs website for techies) and the plain text ad for SEO firms get a lot of clicks? The Ray-Bans ad might do better, as it’s less techie-centric. But these ads don’t seem to be targeted to the audience. As for the ads that show up with the videos, if these are sufficiently similar to the commercials seen on NESN’s televised broadcasts, then potential buyers might be too fatigued with these messages to bother clicking on them.
What are clicks worth to NESN?
A visit to NESN’s advertising sales site (there is a tiny link at the bottom of the website’s home page) shows the channel boasting a reach to an audience of 4.5 million, mainly throughout the New England region. But these sales are for either advertisements on television or sporting venue sponsorships at Fenway Park or the Boston Garden. However, the contact page does include a means of requesting information on advertising on NESN.com.
So I repeat – what are clicks worth to NESN?
The Chartbeat data shows hundreds of daily clicks on advertising links. If a click is worth one-tenth of a penny, then 200 clicks makes a measly twenty cents. Multiply that by 365 days and the campaign is a disaster, at $73/year. So that is not what NESN is dependent upon.
Far more likely, NESN is dependent upon advertisers renting space on their Home Page, on their banners (both large and small), and as filler in between short video clips. The most recent article I could find on NESN’s rights fees was from 2002, and that showed NESN bringing in a cool $60 million in rights fees. After three World Series championships and the purchase of the Red Sox by John Henry, et al (the Red Sox own a controlling share in NESN), that figure has undoubtedly skyrocketed.
Clicks are nothing to NESN. The rights to the rental of space on the blog are where it’s at. No wonder the presences on Pinterest, etc. are fairly small – none of the followings on social media come anywhere near the 4.5 million reach boasted by the advertising department.
NESN has not come anywhere near tapping the fullest potential of social media, when it comes to audience acquisition and conversions. But right now, given their enormous offline presence, they don’t really have to.