RNZ audience tracking with Google Analytics

RNZ wanted to understand their growing website audience. They had lots of insight into their offline (radio-listening) audience, but with data we discovered that the website audience are completely different. We uncovered a young, news-hungry, mobile-first audience who use the RNZ site in a surprising way. RNZ are changing their digital approach in response to this data, increasing reach and engagement with a digital strategy that’s based on evidence, not assumptions.

RNZ-engaged: under a quarter of website users

RNZ have primarily been a radio broadcaster, and they have good user research on their radio-listening audience. The station is reaching new demographics, but their traditional listeners are university graduate ‘Knowledge Seekers’ aged 60+ years. This group want to grow their knowledge by listening to intelligent presenters who are objective, informative and respectful. They’re also more likely to have consumed specialty cheese and red wine in the last week than the general population. You get the picture.

Audience data from Google Analytics (GA) reveals who your audience are, and what they’re doing on your site. GA demographic data will give you a rough idea of things like age, gender and the location of your users, and behavioural data shows what’s working and what’s not for different groups.

Data shows that this radio listening audience use the website to supplement their listening experience. They go online to find out what they missed or what’s coming up on the radio, and locate that delicious hot cross bun recipe that Jesse Mulligan talked about on his programme.

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RNZ also have a strong loyal audience that come to the site for news updates. Many seek out RNZ as a trusted news source, they land on the home page, or the News page and explore RNZ content from there.

The average age of this engaged audience is 45 – 64. They visit a lot of pages and spend a long time on the site, and 40% are returning users. Only a third come from mobile devices which is pretty low by current standards. Half start their journey on the home page – many Google ‘RNZ’ terms and land there, or have the page bookmarked. The data reveals an engaged audience who recognise RNZ as a brand.

However these radio listeners and loyal news visitors account for less than a quarter of the website audience. So who are the other mysterious figures visiting the RNZ site?

‘Update me’ audience: over half of users

RNZ are attracting a younger, news-focussed audience who mostly access the RNZ site on their mobile phones. They find content via different platforms – iPhone news alerts, Facebook, Google and Youtube among others. They come for the latest news, they click on an RNZ link from one of these platforms then only visit the one page on the RNZ site before leaving.

This audience are aged 25 – 34. 70% are on mobile devices and only 20% return to the RNZ site. I filtered the audience by people who bounced off a story (deep-level) page, so all of them visited just one page on the site.

This ‘Update me’ audience makes up over 50% of users.

Many people access RNZ content through news updates on their iPhones. Below a link to an RNZ page on Cyclone Hola appears on an iPhone newsfeed, which results in 400 visits to that page in the realtime Google Analytics report on the right:

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Changing RNZ’s approach based on evidence

Before these insights came to light, RNZ thought their website audience mainly consisted of people who sought out RNZ as a trusted broadcaster. Now we see that along with this loyal audience there are a huge number of people who probably don’t even recognise the RNZ brand. RNZ content is prioritised by other platforms like Facebook and Google because it’s authoritative and high-quality. This is an opportunity to reach a much larger audience than RNZ reach offline.

RNZ previously thought of the home page as the most important entry points to the site, and the News team were spending a lot of time curating the home page with the latest stories. But data shows that only about 15% of users actually look at the home page – as we’ve seen many of them land on deep-level story pages. The home page still receives millions of visits, so it’s still getting lots of attention. But the team have re-focussed their efforts to build the ‘Update me’ audience by:

1. Reducing home page content and upkeep, and monitoring the effects.

2. Monitoring online channels monthly to see what content does (and doesn’t do) well on different channels like social media, Google, mobile devices etc.

3. Publishing effectively for different online channels – e.g. news stories with an emotional aspect do well in Facebook.

4. Holding SEO training to help RNZ Google performance – e.g. weather content performs brilliantly in Google so we make sure these pages are optimised for search.

5. Encouraging the ‘Update me’ audience to explore more RNZ content with improved related links.

Improving things and informing digital strategy

RNZ have found surprising insights about their website audience from GA data. The insight shows a generational split – older knowledge-seekers seek out the RNZ website to supplement their listening experience and find authoritative news. The younger, more tech savvy audience access stories through a variety of platforms and visit just one page on the RNZ site. We’re working to keep our loyal audience happy and improve the site based on their needs. We’re also reaching more of the young news users, and holding their attention with related content.

These audience insights are informing the RNZ digital strategy. The RNZ team tests different ways of increasing RNZ reach and engagement, which builds their audience knowledge so that RNZ can put resources where they will be most effective. The team makes decisions with data and monitors the results to make sure they’ve improved things, for hot-cross bun makers, mobile news readers, and people who indulge in a bit of both.

Please Get in touch if you’d like help understanding your audience in order to improve your online performance.

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