Parse.ly's marketing team cut its staff back, reduced PR spending by 50% and scaled back content creation by half, all while increasing website traffic and leads. Here's how they did it...
This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, Parse.ly VP of Marketing Clare Carr shares how her team revamped its approach to marketing and content creation and drove increases in traffic, leads and editorial coverage by productizing the company's data.
Today, Parse.ly's unique, data-backed insights into how audiences are consuming publishers' stories are sought after by journalists and media companies alike, fueling the marketing funnel and driving growth for this software-as-a-service (SaaS) company.
This week's episode of The Inbound Success Podcast is brought to you by our sponsor, IMPACT Live, the most immersive and high energy learning experience for marketers and business leaders. IMPACT Live takes place August 6-7, 2019 in Hartford Connecticut and is headlined by Marcus Sheridan along with special guests including world-renowned Facebook marketing expert Mari Smith and Drift CEO and Co-Founder David Cancel. Inbound Success Podcast listeners can save 10% off the price of tickets with the code "SUCCESS".
Some highlights from my conversation with Clare include:
Media companies use Parse.ly to understand how their stories are performing.
Parse.ly has always analyzed the data from its customer portals (on the order of 100 million articles per month) and aggregated it to extract insights. Early on, the company published these insights in something called The Authority Report, which was distributed as a PDF. Now, it has built a dashboard, called Currents, that is updated in real time and which can be accessed by anyone on the web.
Back when they were publishing The Authority Report, the team at Parse.ly used a public relations firm to send the report out to journalists, and it generated significant interest and press coverage. The challenge they had was that journalists increasingly came to them looking for information on specific data sets and timeframes, and that was time consuming to create.
Now that they have Currents, the Parse.ly team has been able to reduce its spending on PR by around 50% by promoting the data through their own bi-weekly email newsletter. Clare estimates that every time the newsletter goes out, the company gets two to three editorial placements in the press.
Parse.ly's data shows that, on average, publishers get the bulk of their website traffic from Google and Facebook. But Clare points out that there are some other emerging referrers worth watching, including Flipboard and Instagram.
By focusing on creating content that centers around the insights gleaned from its data (rather than other topics of interest to its audience), Parse.ly has been able to cut back its marketing team and produce half as much content each month while still seeing its website traffic grow.
Clare conducted an experiment where she had her team stop producing new blog content for a month. Overall website traffic didn't decline but blog traffic and leads dropped to one third of their usual numbers during this time, proving that the articles the team was producing were getting results.
To support the marketing team's consistent need for data and insights, Clare hired a data analyst who now works full time within Parse.ly's marketing team.
The Currents product is a freemium offering that serves as a strong lead generator for the company. It just came out of beta in the fall of 2018 so the team is still learning how their customers use it and developing upsell strategies.
Resources from this episode:
Save 10% off the price of tickets to IMPACT Live with promo code "SUCCESS"
I'm your host Kathleen Booth, and today my guest is Clare Carr, who is the VP of marketing for Parse.ly. Welcome Clare.
Clare Carr (Guest): Hi. Thanks, and welcome to our office Kathleen.
Kathleen and Clare having fun while recording this episode together in Clare's NYC office
Kathleen: I know. This is a first for the Inbound Success podcast. This is the first time in now 94 episodes that I am doing an interview with my guest and actually in the same room with them.
Clare: We're here. You can't see it, but we're here. I'm very excited that I'm joining you for this one.
Kathleen: Yeah, and amazingly, being a totally non-technical person, we somehow figured out how to make the video and the audio all work, even though we're in the same place. So I'm going to call that a win.
But I'm really excited to have you as a guest for a couple of reasons. One is that, full disclosure, IMPACT is a client of Parse.ly. We use Parse.ly for our publisher analytics.
We're building a brand publisher business in the company, and we felt like it would deliver a different set of insights and value to us than the other platforms we were using, so it's great to use in conjunction with them. So for that reason I'm excited to talk to you more.
But also, my team and I voraciously consume your content. We are trying to be as sponge-like as possible when it comes to learning about how you build a media company, and I think that Parse.ly does a particularly good job of publishing content that delivers a lot of really good insight from that.
Clare: Thank you. I've spent almost six years now trying to do that, so it's always good to hear when people see it. I think one of my favorite things is when a team member comes to me and says ... We have numbers and data, it's great, but I think one of the best feelings is a team member saying, "I was at a conference and so-and-so said how much they love our newsletter," or, "So-and-so said how much this post helped them talk to their boss about something."
So we put a lot of heart and soul and effort into it, and we have numbers for it, and we also have emotions tied to it. So thank you for fulfilling my emotional side today.
Kathleen: I was going to say, any good marketer, you have to have the data, but the best marketers I know are also very emotionally invested in the success of their strategy. I love that, and I can relate.
About Parse.ly and Clare
Kathleen: Before we dive into what Parse.ly is doing, and what you're doing with the marketing strategy here, maybe you could just talk a little bit about what Parse.ly is for those who are not familiar with it, as well as yourself and your background and how you came to be doing what you're doing right now.
Clare: Yeah. Parse.ly works with ... Actually you are such a great example of a Parse.ly client. Typically we're understood very well in the media industry. A lot of media companies use our platform to understand how their stories are doing.
I think your typical media reader, if you're not someone that works in the media industry, just assumes that every media company knows how many page views an article is getting, or that it's really easy for them to figure out which author is getting more readership, or more engagement. It's actually really challenging, and it's a big technical lift for those companies.
So what we've done over the past 10 years or so is provide a way, and maybe someone's out there, I'm going to just preempt you, you're thinking, "Doesn't Google Analytics do that, or other systems?" And they do, you're not wrong, but they provide it for someone who's very trained in Google analytics, they provide it for an analyst team, or maybe a product team.
But your typical writer or editor or content creator, they just don't have the bandwidth to understand an analytics platform soup to nuts, and they're not trained in it, and maybe they absolutely don't really need to be. So we make it very easy for them to have a data driven culture without needing to teach everyone how to use a very complicated and very technical platform.
Kathleen: What you just said really struck a chord with me, because what first drove me to explore Parse.ly as a solution was what I would call my authors. So we do have Google Analytics, we also use HubSpot as your content management system, so we have a lot of data. And we actually have a team that is, I would say, fairly sophisticated in its ability to use data, because we're all marketers by trade.
Clare: I was going to say, marketers, way more sophisticated than the typical media industry employee.
Kathleen: Yeah. We're marketers writing about marketing, so it's not that we can't dive into these platforms. But the one thing that I was having a really hard time solving for was buy-in. Because unlike a traditional media organization, we don't necessarily hire a lot of people just to write for us.
We have a requirement that everybody that works for our company, no matter what you do, whether you're the comptroller, whether you're a client-facing marketing account manager, or whether you're the head of editorial content, all of us, including me, has to write for our publication. And we try to work with them to find topics that, obviously, fit with what they understand and know.
But I think our biggest challenge, honestly, is buy-in. Some of the team looks at that writing requirements as a burden, and it could be because they don't feel comfortable writing; others look at it and they think, what effect is this having? Like so what?
So for me, one of the challenges is, how do I more effectively communicate the value that you as an author or a contributor are delivering to the organization? And the platforms that we had didn't actually give me good information at the author level for what the content was doing and how it's performing, and it didn't give me, as you've pointed out, an easy way for the authors to access it.
So one of the biggest things that we did with Parse.ly as soon as we got it was create dashboards for each of our authors. And I love that the system has a way to create a URL that anybody can just plug into a browser, they don't need to be logged in, and they can see the performance of the content that they've written.
Clare: Yeah. Just like I was saying before, everyone's ego is wrapped up in it, and when you know there's business value to it, you need to tap into that ego to get them to do things you ... You want it to be win-win. You want them to feel good about it, and then you want it to have an effect.
And if you don't have something to show people, if you don't have a way to get them excited, there are big internal comes programs at many companies, and maybe they're not dealing with this exact problem, but that's why they exist. They exist so that you can get your own team excited and motivated and moving in the right direction.
And we see that culture shift being ... So this is across industries, it's true in media, it's true of content marketers too, that once they see the data, once they understand it, and the easier you make that for them, the more they're onboard, and the more they're excited to be apart of it.
We just hear that again and again, and it's true here too. It's true for my own team. So we create it, and then I make my team look at their own content and their own data, and they get just as excited about it.
Kathleen: Yeah. The other interesting thing to me that we've started to layer on top of that is that we have external contributors who are not a part of our company, and obviously giving them access to our Google Analytics wouldn't really make sense, and so it's been a really easy way to communicate to them what they're getting in return for their time and effort that they're putting into creating articles.
And then we also have sponsors who pay to contribute sponsored content, and I think having that ROI conversation is a lot easier when they can, on a self-serve basis, go in and see what sort of traction their sponsored articles are getting.
Clare: Yeah, and hopefully it's not taking you-
Kathleen: No time.
Clare: Time to do it, which means-
Kathleen: "Set it and forget it," as Ron Popeil would say.
Clare: Yeah. And you asked about my background. The other thing I'll add is, I came from a B2B media company called Greentech Media, and it's since been acquired by Wood Mackenzie Verisk Analytics, and they are in the renewable energy technology industry.
I was a number of things while I was there, but at the end of my tenure I was the marketing ... What was I? I was director of marketing and operations maybe? I ran a lot of the website promotion and a lot of the ... I started their Twitter feed eight plus years ago. Probably more now.
I would go into Google Analytics every month and send out a report, and I understood it and I could sort of tell what was going on. But man, no one else good, or they just didn't have the time, again, to sort of care about it the way I did.
And so that's how I found Parse.ly. I actually was a client there, and all of a sudden my editor is having conversations with me that I had been wanting them to have for years, and it was just so exciting to have them be able to understand the data in the way that I always had, but clearly just wasn't accessible to them in any way, shape, or form prior to having Parse.ly.
So that was my introduction to the company as a very happy client. Then when they raised their series A, they were looking for their marketing, and I was really excited to focus fully on marketing. I'd been doing a lot of different things, and I really love the aspect of brand, and marrying it with the data side, and lead generation and demand generation, and it's been really fun to work with content creators from Wall Street Journal, to other content marketers. It's just sort of my favorite thing in the world to talk about this kind of stuff all day.
How Parse.ly Has Leveraged Insights From Its Data Into Traffic and Leads
Kathleen: Yeah, it's so interesting. And I could spend a lot of time singing the praises of Parse.ly, but what I really think is so great is what you guys have done with your data.
So you have a lot of different companies that are using your platform, that gives you a certain degree of access to information about how content performs across different industries and topics, et cetera.
It was after I became a customer that I started to feel like, I keep seeing Parse.ly's name popping up everywhere. And I really began to consume a ton of content, from case studies that you have on your website, to just news reports I was seeing that featured data that you had about where publisher traffic was coming from by channel, how different social media platforms were performing by publishers.
There was just so much good information.
So I was really excited to pick your brain on the strategy on that, because it sounds like it's really worked well for you as a company.
Clare: Yeah. It started a very long time ago. Even the initial founding of the company, our cofounders were just super interested in how digital content was shaping people's opinions online.
So from very early days, even before we had a product running, anything like that, they wanted to know ... I think their original question was actually around the 2008 election, and were more people reading about Obama or were they reading about McCain. And to be honest it was not something they could really answer at the time, but fast-forward 10 years, and that's something that we can absolutely use our data to look at today.
And so from a marketing perspective they realized early on that one thing they wanted to do was to have that data available, to look at it, and to be able to answer interesting questions with it.
Clare: So I believe our first effort was called ... We called it this for a long time, The Authority Report. And it was sort of your typical PDF, our cofounder and CTO was a part of it, I think we had an engineer working on it, and we looked at sort of the ... It's a simple quote-unquote question, but with a lot of implications of where traffic is coming from.
And the very first one we did, Google I think was something like 40% of traffic, Facebook was 5%, 2%.
Clare: It was low. Yeah, it was some sort of not very interesting number. And there was a lot of traffic coming within the network of publishers too, like to each other. And obviously we sort of kept that particular question very top of mind, and then expanded it into all these ... A lot of the strategy is just, keep asking questions. So once we've put that data out there we look at it every quarter.
Now we actually have a live dashboard that people can come look at on our website. We have a product that people can actually log into and look up that data for themselves.
And then we say, what else do people want to know about it? At a very high level that's how we've grown the content strategy over time.
Reducing PR Expenses
Kathleen: When you were talking earlier about how when you first started distributing data ... Let me rephrase that, turning data into stories. Because that's really what you've done, is use the data you have to distill insights and tell a story about that, that's useful to your audience.
When you first started talking about that, you mentioned how you were more reliant upon traditional PR to get that out into the world. Can you talk about how that began, and what that evolution's been for you?
Clare: Yeah. We, very early on, noticed that when we didn't talk about ourselves, but when we talked out these big companies, like Google and Facebook have sort of been the big two drivers, that people pay more attention to us. So we really wanted to get in that conversation early, and over the years we've worked with a couple different ... We've had our ups and downs with PR. We've really tried to figure it out, and we've always felt that the data was sort of our foot in the door there.
So our first goal ... And honestly I can't remember ... I don't think we were working with a PR ... No, we were, we were working with a PR consultant at the time. And we took the PDFs, and we would email them to people, and it was data that these journalists couldn't get anywhere else, and so they started quoting us. And then they knew over time that they could come to us for that stat.
And what actually was the biggest pain point for us was, there was a while where we couldn't keep up with the amount of inbound interest in those specific numbers, because the journalists ... We would have it from the quarter before, but when a journalist wanted to write a story about it, they wanted it from the month before, or the very specific timeframe, and that was proving to be really challenging to get in the turnaround that they needed. And frankly a PR firm, or a PR person even, internally, couldn't really help.
Kathleen: It would just be a game of telephone.
Clare: Right. Call an engineer… "We need this yesterday" ...
Kathleen: Right. Actually I should say game of telephone with a 100% markup.
Clare: So that was the inspiration for this live dashboard we had, was to say, "This is the number one thing people ask of us."
We actually don't want to spend all of our time and effort from a content team and content strategy perspective just saying what these numbers are over and over again, but clearly we want, from a PR perspective, to have them continue to be cited, and our name continue to be in the conversation.
And so our senior data scientist decided, you know what, let's make this public. Let's just make it constantly updating. The number of ... People still will write to us, but instead of us having to go and run the numbers, we just point them in the direction of the dashboard, and easy.
And that alone has just driven so much trust, and so much ... And then it gets further conversations going, like I said. So then someone will ask a deeper question, because they were able to get the answer to their first question so quickly.
Now ... I'm skipping a couple steps here, but we have a newsletter that I lead, and I think when we send a story out through that newsletter, by doing nothing else other than sticking to about a biweekly newsletter schedule, I can count on, about, I would say two to three places minimum. But in really targeted, great outlets that we just adore having our name associated with.
And I will say there's no work, quote-unquote now, because we've done all this work for five or six years to get it there. But it's just so exciting to see these publications you respect literally just take your blog post and do something with it, or come back to you and ask a deeper question, or respond to your newsletter and say, "I saw you mention this. Is this noteworthy? Should I cover it?"
Clare: And then we have a PR firm that we work with, and they're wonderful, and they don't have to deal with this. So they no longer have to play telephone, they can work on more brand awareness or company initiative PR stories that don't have to deal with data.
And from a financial perspective, if they had to be doing the data stories and the company stories, we would have to be paying twice as much. So it's just been a really nice way to keep that cost down, but also still have the effects be X amount what we saw eight years ago.
More On Parse.ly's Data
Kathleen: For anybody listening who might not understand completely the data that you're talking about, it's data around trends, and what people are writing about and reading, correct?
Clare: Yes. Our system analyzes something ... I just saw the stat from our team - something on the order of 100 million articles a month, which is billions of page views, and it's people reading these news websites and content websites and media websites across the world.
And so what we then do is say, in our back end system, how many of these people ... Each client can obviously, in their own day by day, "10% of my traffic comes from Facebook, 20 comes from Google, 15 comes from my direct sources," and you can see your own breakdown, but what we're able to do is see that and a network level, and say across the board, it's actually about 23%, I think, comes from Facebook, 50% of external comes from Google. Those are just external refers, not internal.
And we can break down to LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, other search platforms. There's a lot of little aggregators that have been really growing in popularity.
We like to emphasize that our aggregate numbers aren't things that people should try to match, necessarily, because it really depends on the audience and the type of content you have. But it does give this window into these big platforms, that frankly without this data no one would be able to see.
So we are probably the best picture of how Google, and Facebook in particular, but also those other platforms, impact content and media online. And prior to that data, I think people were really unaware of, just fundamentally, how much it's changed the industry. I meant they're aware from an advertising perspective, but it's not just advertising. It's really how these companies are getting their readers. And they've had to adjust to that over time.
Kathleen: For me it's been interesting, because obviously we have access, as you said, to our own analytics, and so we have a deep understanding of where our existing traffic is coming from. But I think any organization that wants to grow traffic, the question ... Yes, you can optimize for what you already know, but the bigger opportunity sometimes is what you don't know.
I will share that one of the insights we got from looking at your data was how many publishers were seeing an increase in traffic from places like Flipboard. We didn't all of a sudden pivot and put a lot of resources into Flipboard, but I did create Flipboard magazine just as an experiment, just to say hm, let's dip our toes in the water and see what will happen, because it's working for others.
It's things like that, that either I might not have been alerted to or it might have taken me a lot longer to make that move, that I think are really interesting opportunities that come out of having access to that aggregated data.
Clare: Yeah, I like to think of it as ... A phrase I use is, you can't AB test content.
Marketers like to test things, and we all sort of agree fundamentally, we should be, and you have to test these strategies. But there's so many options, there is so many out there, and there are so many things you could be doing. And to have set of data, or a system, to say "Here's your three best bets to try testing in," versus, "Man, I've just got to come up with something," having those three best bets is something that makes me feel much more confident in my strategy, and hopefully what we're providing to other people too.
Instagram is the other one that we just had some data out on recently, that I was actually sort of floored by. Because Instagram is this huge platform, 500 million daily users or something like that I think, and they refer this tiny, tiny percentage of traffic back to media sites and to content sites.
So you have marketers who are obviously very familiar with maybe their ad platform, maybe their influencer. Some people use influencers, some people don't. But I wanted to go digging for, okay, there's got to be some way of getting traffic from Instagram, just because aggregately it's not happening. And there are, and there are some companies that are seeing good results.
And we also found that the link in bio tools are adding a sizable amount of traffic that we really wouldn't have caught if we weren't looking for it, and it was just such an interesting little tidbit. Then when we started talking to the people running these content programs, they're sort of like, "Yeah, without the link in bio tool, we wouldn't ... Between that and stories, those are our two sort of main sources."
Then we also got to talk to some of our clients about how they actually are doing their Instagram strategies. So again, it sort of started at data, and then we found this really interesting thing, we got people to pick it up and talk about it in the social media world, and these are people that are on our newsletter list.
And then finally we got these really cool examples of what people are actually doing in content on Instagram. And that all flowed from having access to data in the first place.
Kathleen: Yeah, that is really fascinating to me, because I've been kind of personally obsessed with exactly that for us. Which is, we've been using Instagram very casually. We use it more as a culture tool and a recruiting tool than anything else.
But I've been stalking other publications' link in bio strategies, and I will say personally I go down the link in bio route all the time with The Today Show. They do a really good job with it. And it's something that I would love to use, so it's fascinating to hear that you're seeing...
Clare: Yeah. We had a webinar though a while ago, and it's interesting, because it's like from 2017 I think, and it was interesting to listen to them talk about it, because they said something like, "We're noticing this little traffic source called Instagram."
And I've heard from them, and I think they actually did a case study with Instagram directly. I think they've just seen huge amounts of success in it. Obviously they're Vogue, they're style and fashion, it really just sort of hits all the notes there in terms of the right audience.
But the article I was talking about, we looked at Harvard Business Review, and just even what you can see on their feed, and I just thought their strategy was fascinating. Harvard Business Review is not what I associate with Instagram.
Kathleen: Right, not the most visual ...
Clare: Yeah. But what I think really works for them is, they have evergreen content. So they weren't doing breaking news, they weren't trying to keep up with something.
That's something I think a lot of marketers can tap into with their content on Instagram. Because you don't need to, necessarily, maybe post every day, or keep up with stuff, but if you can keep reuse content, and then tap into these methods that get people actually to click back, then maybe it's a place to explore.
Kathleen: Yeah, I love what you said earlier about picking the two things to experiment with, instead of, marketers in my opinion, the ones I know, including myself, can easily fall victim to shiny penny syndrome, and get stretched really thinly and accomplish nothing, and so it is really helpful if you have data that can help you hone in on those ...
We were talking about this earlier with my team, the 80-20 thing, the 20% of things that are going to give you the 80% of results.
Clare: Yeah. That's why from our own content strategy, like I said, we sort of never varied from using our data. Because a lot of people have come to me with good intentions and sort of said, "Why don't we talk about this on the blog," or, "Why don't we ..." this is actually a really common one I get, is "Why don't we do more hot takes." Like something happens in the industry, why don't we write our opinion on it?
And again, good intentions, they're not wrong, in that hot takes can be super effective for some companies.
Certainly getting your opinion and your brand voice out there can be very powerful, but my stance has always been, "Hey guys, here's our data. We write a post about traffic from Facebook and how it's impacting the world of content, we get 10,000 plus views."
If we write a post about what GDPR is doing to publishers, no one reads it. So I can easily say no to that, and it allows me to keep a super narrow focus from a marketing perspective, and just sort of never vary from it. Or be very focused on what those tests are, and then get a really good glance of, nope, this isn't going to work either, we're not going to try this again.
Kathleen: Yeah, and GDPR, writing about GDPR or anything like it, has a ton of competition. I know, because we write about it. Whereas you have no competition for your own stuff.
Clare: Yes, absolutely. That's a big part of it too.
Again, those topics, it's not that anything is bad about the idea of them, but we can just so quickly see that this other thing works so much better for us.
We're a small team. We don't have a ton of dedicated ... Like you said, we use people internally at the company to write freelancers, contributors, and you have to be super dedicated about how you divvy up those resources if you're going to get what you want out of it. And I keep that really top of mind when considering opportunity costs of our own time.
How Parse.ly Has Staffed Up To Provide Insights On Its Data
Kathleen: Let's talk about your team for a second, because you mentioned something really interesting to me before we got started, which is, not just what writing about data has done for you from a visibility and a reach standpoint, but what it's meant in terms of how you staff.
Clare: We're so meta. We use our own data, we look at our data, we write about data.
One of the things that I'm super proud of this year is that we actually have been working with a smaller team within the marketing and content departments specifically. That's meant we've had to produce about half as much or even less content than we did in the prior six months, and that was really hard for me, because I think for a number of reasons, frequency is still very important.
This is not a pitch for anyone out there to cut their frequency if frequency works in their workflow. But it was just not something that we had the capacity for at the moment, and we also just wanted to sort of see what would happen. And so instead we really dug into the data.
I wrote a post about it, I think, in January, sort of looking back to 2018 and seeing what really worked and what really didn't, and what are we going to commit to this year. And we've written, like I said, I think about half as many posts, and we've had just as much traffic.
And that has been one of the most rewarding things I've had happen all year, because it sort of ... I love when we can eat our own dog food and prove our own theories right. And we will be increasing our frequency. This isn't to say we're going to stick to this. It's actually made me able to make that argument internally. Even here, I still have to make that argument internally for content. And we will be increasing the frequency.
Another related stat is, and I will actually be writing a post on this, is that we took a month off from content.
Kathleen: Oh wow.
Clare: Yeah. So we didn't really announce it. I sort of looked at what we had to do and I said, "I'm going to try something. I kind of want to level set, and I want to know if all these things I'm saying from a marketing and positioning perspective are true. And also we've got some other priorities, so let's take April off, and let's just not worry about content. And then we'll come back to it in May.
Kathleen: That was a daring move on your part.
Clare: I think I undersold how daring it was, and I sold some of the other projects that we would get to do instead. And some of them were just, that's a good chance to clean out some salesforce stuff. It wasn't very exciting other work, but I did it, I finished it, and then I looked at the numbers.
And our overall ... This is what was so interesting to me. The overall site traffic to our public website, Parse.ly, didn't really change much. There wasn't a huge impact on it. Blog traffic was way, way lower. I think a third or something that we would normally see. But the blog traffic is still a small percentage of overall site traffic.
But here's what's so interesting to me. Leads were down almost exactly in line with the blog traffic. And those leads don't necessarily convert on the blog. So we have forms on the blog, the forms, they were a little lower, but it wasn't really even that noticeable.
But the other lead forms across the website, the demo forms, pricing forms, we're a B2B business, so these things are huge for us, those were all down precipitously.
It's technically still correlation, not causation, but we obviously restarted our content in May, and leads are back up. And it's just, with such a good opportunity to sort of show our own team we mean it when we say content works for our clients.
We mean it when it's not just about volume and growth and scale, but it's about business objectives for those companies as well. And I'm excited to sort of say that we've proved it, even if it hurt a little bit to do it.
Kathleen: At your own expense?
Kathleen: That's interesting. And you also added a data scientist, or a data analyst, to your team, right?
Clare: Yes. I was able to ... And this was one of those sort of, we were in the right place at the right time. One of our account managers, who has been with the company for years, and has always had a very strong interest in this side of the business, she taught herself SQL and how to sort of pull some of these numbers that I still can't get into those systems can use, and I said, we're a little bit low on staff, but if I could have one person who's just doing data, I can make everything else work. I can work with freelancers, I can work with the content workflow, I can figure it out using internal people.
And that has made a huge difference, I think, to those numbers, posting in half but getting twice the results. And again, that was just because I was able to see from our own data that these data posts work. So I said, give me the one person.
Kathleen: Yeah, who makes it all possible.
Clare: Can make it possible. And we can write about it.
How Parse.ly Has Productized Data
Kathleen: That is so interesting. I love how you guys are doing it, and I think the most interesting to me is that, not just that you're mining the data and turning it into these insights that have become almost like a product in and of themselves, but that you've built a dashboard, so that your audience could access the data in a self-serve manner. That's a really interesting approach to doing it.
Clare: Yeah, I should probably name it by name otherwise my product team will kill me. We also have ... We did this initial text with just a dashboard that you can access on the public website. It was just a single page you could see the numbers, and that is still there.
But now we also have a product called Currents. When you sign up for it, it's a freemium model, and it's also for me a lead gen tool as well, and you can go in and look up any topic online and see how people have been reading about it. So it's totally self-serve now.
If you want to see how much attention people are paying to Game of Thrones, you can see it in Currents. If you want to see how much attention people are paying to Donald Trump you can see it in Currents. And of course any sort of niche topic that you might write about too.
Then of course the flip side of that, to your point, is now we have a product that's individual dashboards where people can see their own data, and this other dashboard where people can see the aggregate data, and so you have both the, I know what's going on in my audience, but also now I know what's going on with everyone's audience, and I can tap into that.
That product came out of beta last fall, so it's still nine months or so, and we're just starting to really see how people use it, and it's really exciting. So I'm excited to see more of what people do with Currents.
Kathleen: Just so that everybody who's listening understands, we've talked a lot about the aggregate data. Can you just give my listeners a sense of the type of media company slash publications that use your platform, so that they understand the breadth of where that data is coming from? It's big and small, it's across a range of industries, right?
Clare: Yeah, so major media companies, think of your local newspaper, their parent company is probably a client of ours. So we work with Berkshire Hathaway, and Gatehouse Media, Advance Digital, which are some of the major newspaper owners. Then of course, like I mentioned, The Wall Street Journal, NBC, some of the major ... Now they're certainly very digital players.
Then you have online only publications like Slate, Bloomberg, and of course B2B outlets. A huge variety of industries.
And it's funny, occasionally you'll see a domain name, I think there's Farmer's Journal, I forget the exact title of one of the companies, but there are very niche B2B sites using this.
The way our Currents product works, which is super cool, is that it reads all of the articles that people read online, and then it uses natural language processing to understand what those articles are about.
So that's how we can say, if you want to know how much attention Donald Trump is getting online, we look at every article out there, and our system is smart enough to say, "This article is about Donald Trump, and about Kelly Anne Conway, and here's how those things relate," and we can parse that all out and give you data on it.
Which is also, if anyone was paying close attention, how our name came to be, which is a pun on data.
Kathleen's Two Questions
Kathleen: Yeah. It's also just incredible how timely the product is, given everything that's happening in the world, and all the talk about news and the role that media plays in our lives. So lots of interesting stuff here.
I can talk forever about this but we don't have all the time in the world, so two questions for you before we wrap up. One is, when it comes to inbound marketing specifically, is there a particular company or an individual that you think is really just killing it right now?
Clare: Well I know you've talked to them, but I think that the name that gets brought up the most, and I get why, Drift, they just really ... I think this play ... I don't know, I haven't seen a real huge breakdown of this, but this sort of write-the-book play, where you literally write a book.
And I think Uberflip is also doing some interesting stuff here, and then you use that book for all your content, but you also get speaking positions out of it, you really don't have to say that much that's different.
I think they have such strong positioning in these ways that really speak to marketers' needs, that they have just crushed it from that sense. And to my knowledge they don't have to use that much data, so I would love to sort of learn from their playbook, and maybe find our ...
Kathleen: Write your book?
Clare: Yeah, it's been a long time dream of mine to write a book. So I would name them, I think they're sort of the obvious ones. I'm trying to think of anyone who is sort of off the beaten path a little bit more. Give me a second, if someone comes to me I'll share.
Kathleen: Yeah, we can come back to that. I bet you have some clients that probably are crushing it.
Personally, how do you keep up with digital marketing and all the new developments? Because there is so much, and pretty much every marketer I know, that's the number one pain point, is "I don't have the time to stay on top of it all!"
Clare: It is. Actually the woman we were talking about, the data analyst that just joined the marketing team from the account management team, that was one of her big questions. She said, "What do you read every day?" Because we had been working together very closely on her stories and on editing them, and when I attempted to add industry trends going in she goes, "I want to do that, but I just don't know where to find them yet."
So I read a lot of newsletters, I love newsletters, we write about newsletters, so again, very meta, write my own. But a lot of ... Frankly I actually try to bring a lot of media tactics into the marketing world, because I don't think they're used as much in marketing, which is somewhat ironic, because media companies have the biggest audiences out there. And obviously some people are picking up on that, but there's still a lot of companies that haven't figured that out.
Kathleen: Yeah. Talk about going down the rabbit hole with one thing.
Clare: Yeah. We actually had them on our podcast talking about their newsletters. That was a really cool thing to hear, how they think through their obsession newsletters. Way more work than this.
Kathleen: Yeah, exactly.
Clare: Than I have time for.
So yeah, newsletters would probably be one of my biggest led. And then we have a Slack channel internally where we try to share articles with each other, and just read. I don't know, I don't think there's a shortcut. Maybe that's why I love content marketing so much, is I love reading a lot.
Kathleen: Yeah, I was just saying on a recent episode that I've now done almost 100 of these interviews, and the best marketers I know, and that I've interviewed, just are naturally super curious, and can't get enough. They're big readers, they do it in their free time, they listen to podcasts, they read newsletters, they're always just consuming, for their own sake, and that kind of has side benefits.
Clare: Yeah, and I think the biggest things that I've learned ... And then the places I've seen the most success in my own career have been taking things from one industry and applying them to another. I think there's this sort of idea that you have to follow what other companies have done, and certainly there's this nice scalability to knowing exactly what the basics are, and you need to have that at some level.
Someone else recommended to me, Annie Duke has a book about decision-making, and how we consider luck and skill, and sort of taking these concepts that have nothing to do with marketing, or may be very tangential, or even fiction right, and making sure that I'm not separating my brain when I read that stuff, when I'm thinking about it, how can this also apply to my marketing and professional life.
How to Connect With Clare
Kathleen: Yeah. Love it. Well if someone's listening to this, and they want to learn more about Parse.ly, or they want to check out Currents, or they just want to check with you, what's the best way for them to do that online?
Clare: The best way is for them not to spell it like the herb, is pretty much the only advice you need. It's Parse.ly, and we are fortunately, thanks to a lot of articles and this data that we are getting written about, hopefully somewhat easy to find.
Currents is available for free. If you come to the website you're able to sign up for it. And if you have a content program and are interested in your own Analytics dashboard, we'd love to speak to you. I will be gone on maternity leave so someone else will have to get back to you, but ...
Kathleen: Yeah, you can't see this, but I'm sitting across from Clare and I will attest to the fact that she's probably got a month or less.
Clare: Yeah, it's very clear that I will be going on maternity leave soon. Our team, we actually do a lot of events, and I'll now shout out Kathleen for helping us out.
Kathleen is hosting an event tomorrow in the city, in New York City, and we love connecting people that do content, work, and programs together. That's one of our big initiatives for the year as well, and then creating content out of it. So if you are, particularly in New York City, but also we do this in other places as well, and ever want to come to a Parse.ly event, please, please let us know, we'd love to have you.
Kathleen: Yeah, it should be fun. I'm looking forward to meeting all of these other people who are facing the same challenges I am.
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