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Clay Morgan

Using Dayparting to Grow Readership of Your Content

By: Clay Morgan | December 30, 2013 | 
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Using Dayparting to Grow Readership of Your ContentBy Clay Morgan

When I started talking about dayparting in a newspaper newsroom, the looks I received were crazy.

I remember one editor asking if I understood I was not at a television station.

Dayparting has a dramatic affect on readership, and if done properly, can increase the number of eyeballs on your content.

Kickin’ it Old School

For three years, I was editor and publisher for a small paper in Texas.

The Aransas Pass Progress was in a fishing community that also had a large “Winter Texan” population – folks who left the north during winter.

The end result was nearly 75 percent of the newspapers we sold were single copy. Rather than subscribers, we had a lot of people who went to a rack or the store, and plopped down their quarters.

This was good because our profit on a single copy sale was much greater compared to a subscription, but there was an inherent danger.

Hitting the streets just a little late could affect sales dramatically.

I remember one day when a press malfunction caused the paper to be about an hour late. Sales plummeted more than 70 percent that day.  The worst part? Our competitor was selling out all over town. People weren’t just not buying The Progress, they were turning to our competitor.

It was very rudimentary dayparting. We had to be on the street before 6 a.m. or we’d lose our audience.

It’s a Digital World

At my last newspaper, I really began to study our digital traffic and, as I did, I began to notice a few things.

We’d see a surge in both mobile and desktop page views from about 5 a.m. to roughly 9 a.m., with another “mini-surge” between 8:00 and 9:00.

Right before noon, there would be another crest of desktop, and a surge of mobile during the lunch hour.

There would be another desktop surge right before 5:00 p.m. and then in the evening we’d see a surge in tablet use.

What Did I Surmise?

A person wakes up and grabs his phone. He’s checking something. News updates? Weather or traffic?

At 8:00 a.m., he’s at his desk in the office and scanning headlines.

At 11:00 a.m., he’s thinking about lunch.

At noon, he’s eating lunch.

Around 4:30 p.m., he wants to know what the drive home is going to be like.

That night, he’s playing on his iPad while watching TV.

So we developed a dayparting schedule that looked something like this:

  • Early morning, starting at 5:45 a.m., was commuter news. It included weather and traffic, and was updated regularly until about 8 a.m.
  • At 8 a.m., there was a news update.
  • At 11 a.m., restaurant and food information moved into the lead slot.
  • Noon required another update, but this was more along the lines of news headlines to give people something to read while they are eating lunch.
  • At 4:30 p.m., we’d slot in another commuter report for the ride home.
  • The evenings were heavier on features and sports with a lot of video.

What Were the Results?

Despite being behind a paywall, we began to see an increase in pageviews. We also saw more social media engagement, especially where commuter news was concerned. People began tweeting traffic updates to the morning editor.

The commuter report quickly surpassed the “centerpiece” or the big story of the day as the most read story each morning, up until about 8 a.m.

Video viewership began a 10 percent climb from the previous month. This trend persisted up to my departure.

The key was we were not only giving people the content they wanted, but we were giving it to them when they needed it.

We even see it right here on Spin Sucks blog. If there is a technical glitch and we’re a couple of hours late publishing, the traffic drop is substantial. You’ve come expect to see a new Spin Sucks post at specific times each day.

Put Dayparting to Work for You

You must have data for dayparting to work effectively.

You’ll need to do three things to obtain that data:

  • Measure pageviews or unique visitors by the platform and by the hour.
  • Look at what visitors are reading and viewing.
  • Take some time to think about it and make smart assumptions.

If you discover 20 percent of your traffic consists of people reading on their mobile phones between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., it is safe to assume they are reading your content while eating lunch. Therefore, it might be a good idea to make sure you have fresh, strong content in place and published by 11 a.m.

Think about platform. iPads were just made for video.

If your analytics reveal a significant amount of people are viewing your content on the iPad or similar tablet, you want to make certain you have video available for them at that time.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. When we started shifting local restaurant profiles to the 11 a.m. hour, it seemed so natural. People want to know where to go eat for lunch, right?

However, it simply didn’t generate the traffic we expected. After a couple of months of tweaking the content, we shifted our strategy.

The key is to think, to tweak, and to experiment.

Yes, you’ll have to make some guesses, but you’ll make them with data in hand, and that makes all the difference in developing a successful dayparting plan.

About Clay Morgan


Clay Morgan is the vice president of operations for Arment Dietrich and is based in Nashville. He believes if you can’t deliver content to the right people, and if you can’t make money off it, content will never be king...or queen. He’s a husband, foster father, and has two cats and an unexpected fish.

32 comments
JoeCardillo
JoeCardillo

@ClayMorgan Curious, did you experiment with liveblogging at all? I know it's mostly been used for breaking news / events, but it strikes me as a related angle

Todd Lyden
Todd Lyden

Excellently intuitively true stuff. Experiment is crucial and scary to folks though considering the ones they are putting into it. So where did the strategy take you when you tweaked? 

patmrhoads
patmrhoads

Clay, this is a great post. I especially  love the real-life examples of how you applied dayparting to your newspaper's publishing schedule for online content. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

JRHalloran
JRHalloran

I learn something new every time I visit Spin Sucks. Thanks, Clay! 

Now, I have a word to describe what I mean by updating things on social media at certain times -- "dayparting." It makes so much sense to do this. You need to know exactly what your target audience is thinking, where they are at the moment you share your updates, and how you want them to act when they see it. 

I definitely agree people take note (whether consciously or subconsciously) on when to check back on your site for new content. Definitely a good idea to implement dayparting to blogs, too.

LauraPetrolino
LauraPetrolino

Love this post. 


I believe your third bullet point: 

  • Take some time to think about it and make smart assumptions.

Cannot be underestimated. Data is great, but truly understanding your market and what motivates their actions is what ties it all together (obviously any smart marketer should know this already). So important to take the data and then start asking questions, not just about why they are logging in at that time, but what they want when they log in.


I always follow the '5 Why' strategy and this is a clear set case of where it can be particularly valuable. 

I remember very clearly the first time this tactic really clicked with me was when I was working with a brand that had a market focus of Jr. High kids. We couldn't get any engagement on social channels until we took a step back and thought about their habits and why they formed those habits. So they logged in at lunch time briefly and then around 3-4pm. All from mobile. We changed our posting schedules for those times and adjusted all content to make it particularly mobile friendly and BOOM the whole campaign transformed. Not only that but because we had engaged them at times it was initially convenient for them, they started coming back at other times to follow along and continue the interaction. Therefore we adjusted again to reward this new behavior, and so on and so on.....


Here again as you so clearly layout, a bit of art, a bit of science....alot of market research :)

susancellura
susancellura

You just nailed my schedule/habits when I have to commute more than 10 miles to work. Except I think I start thinking about lunch around 9 a.m.  ;-) 


This is great insight and you are correct, I know when a post is "supposed" to appear on Spin Sucks and look forward to it.

@jason_
@jason_

@ClayMorgan you totally nailed my daily routine minus the iPad browsing. I prefer my MacBook Air. I enjoyed your insight from the publishing perspective and how dayparting translates to pageviews.

belllindsay
belllindsay

Love this post. People's daily habits are their habits - whether they're watching TV, reading the newspaper, or consuming online content. Love how you proved that here. 

LSSocialEngage
LSSocialEngage

Great post Clay. I enjoyed learning about Dayparting. I agree that good data and analytics is so crucial and can make all the difference in developing a successful plan.

annelizhannan
annelizhannan

Nice to see the old dogs can still produce new tricks.

jasonkonopinski
jasonkonopinski

When you first sent me this post, I was immediately intrigued. 


New media can still learn a lot from traditional media, especially *gasp* broadcast. 

ClayMorgan
ClayMorgan

@belllindsay Thanks! The whole habit thing (and the idea it wasn't restaurant news) hit me when I was sitting eating lunch one day and reading the news on my phone. I still do it to this day!

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ClayMorgan
ClayMorgan

@LSSocialEngage Indeed! The deal is that without good data, you don't know what is working and what isn't, so you can't adequately hypothesize as to why or why not, and make good corrections.

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biggreenpen
biggreenpen

Really interesting Clay - and I think it's critical how you were flexible when what you thought would work - didn't work.

ClayMorgan
ClayMorgan

@annelizhannan Adapt or die, isn't it? This particular paper was owned by Gannett, and the company is strongly encouraging its papers to engage in some manner of programming or dayparting.

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ClayMorgan
ClayMorgan

@jasonkonopinski One of the key things to me Jason is that "old" media - or at least smart old media - is adapting tools to be more effective in a modern age. I think old and new still have a lot to learn from each other.

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LSSocialEngage
LSSocialEngage

Absolutely and to your point every organization should be nimble enough to make the necessary corrections and continue to experiment appropriately.

Kerwyn_Hodge
Kerwyn_Hodge

@ClayMorgan@annelizhannan Well said! This was a great example of a traditional media outlet responding to changes in their readers habits. When an organization gets a grip on what they REALLY deliver (in this case, content conveniently consumable by their readership rather than "a newspaper"), it is easier to make adjustments in light of that goal.

jasonkonopinski
jasonkonopinski

@ClayMorgan Indeed they do! For the most part, I think we're past the point of no return with regards to "new" media. It's just media! 

LSSocialEngage
LSSocialEngage

@ClayMorgan so true. I worked on a joint venture once where the numbers and data pointed to it being a success. And marketing (and other revenue generating functional groups ) considered it a  success.  But Finance, who resisted the changes (to all their systems - they had a to find a way to fit a square peg in a round hole basically) insisted it was a failure. Very interesting dynamics.

ClayMorgan
ClayMorgan

@LSSocialEngage The nimbleness is the tough part. I was really hooked on the restaurant profiles and didn't want to let them go. 


Fortunately, my staff convinced me otherwise. The numbers were there to support a shift, they only supported a violent death of the profiles. 

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