The importance of knowing your audience is abundantly clear to any business. The better you know your target audience, the better you can cater to their wants and needs. We all get that. Recent user studies suggest that consumers have come to expect a personalized experience in all aspects of their digital life. In fact, 53% of consumers want retailers to identify them across multiple channels, and nearly 60% of consumers in the US want to receive tailored promotions and offers based on their shopping history.
Understanding your audience and what motivates them is absolutely vital to content websites, which typically rely on ads (and therefore traffic) for monetization. Their content needs to be tailored to their target’s interests to generate consistent traffic and revenue streams. We were interested in seeing just how well the leading tech publications know their readers, and how they used this knowledge to their advantage. We identified one clear winner: Wired.com, which seems to have a hardwired ability to tap into their target’s interests and motivate them to consume content.
Getting to Know Wired, TechCrunch and Mashable
To analyze these websites’ performance, we needed to establish baselines. We compared the three websites using a Jumpshot Competitive Analysis report for 2015. We can easily find each site’s traffic distribution and visitor information in the Traffic Channel and Demographics sections. While all three content websites are similar in traffic and users, there are some minor variations that define them and their audience.
All three publishers rely mostly on Search Traffic, but the extent and the other determining traffic channels vary.
39% of Wired’s visitors reach the website from search, 22% from social channels and another 22% from referring websites. Meaning, people reach Wired through deliberate search as well as content discovery.
48% of Mashable’s readers reach the website from a search engine, and 36% are driven by their engaged social audience. The typical Mashable reader either knows what s/he is looking for or discovers it on Facebook.
53% of TechCrunch’s traffic originates from a search page and 22% from referring websites. TechCrunch relies more heavily on search traffic than Mashable and Wired, but also enjoys the highest rate of direct traffic (12%). People either know what they are looking for or know TechCrunch.
As for the visitors themselves, they are generally of the same age groups and distribution, but Mashable’s audience includes more women (62%) than Wired (51%) and TechCrunch (47%). Mashable’s user demographics can somewhat explain the higher social engagement and Social Traffic volume the site enjoys.
Now that we understand who tends to visit Wired, TechCrunch and Mashable, and how they typically get there, it’s time to take a deeper look into each of them.
Wired Makes the News Their Own
The more relevant your content is to your audience, the more traffic it will generate. With that in mind, we compared the traffic of TechCrunch, Mashable and Wired since the beginning of the year. We expected to identify traffic peaks and trends for further investigation but what we actually saw was this:
We had to understand what happened there. What happened on Wired on February 27th that resulted in more than 10x the traffic? To really drill down on this unprecedented and astonishing traffic spike we ran a Site Analysis report for Wired, focusing on February 27, 2015. We found that while Wired’s standard traffic channel distribution is more search based
(39%) with social traffic generating an average of 22%, the Social Traffic on February 27th was the leading traffic source, generating 42% of the site’s overall traffic. 93% of the social traffic originated from Facebook, meaning that Facebook alone generated 40% of the websites total traffic through 90K shares of Wired’s post and 48K shares of linked article.
Yes, it’s the same dress that broke the internet earlier this year. The beauty of Wired’s piece is that it doesn’t merely cover the phenomena, which might not really be that interesting to Wired’s analytical / techie audience, who would quickly deduce that this is an optical illusion. Instead, Wired adapted the news to be relevant to their audience, emphasizing and explaining the science behind the optical illusion. TechCrunch took a different approach: instead of finding a way to spin the viral dress to be relevant to their reader they took the cynical, enough with the dress approach, which might have appealed to some but did not generate significant traffic or engagement.
In fact, even though BuzzFeed is thought to be the ultimate winner of traffic generated by the controversial dress, Wired’s traffic surpassed BuzzFeed’s!
Social Traffic wasn’t solely responsible for this article’s outrageous success. Search Traffic drove in 35% of Wired’s overall traffic on February 27th, 2015. Jumpshot’s Search Keywords section helps to understand Search Traffic by listing the top 10 search phrases that drove traffic. As you can see, 10 out of 10 of the search phrases Wired visitors used to get to the site on February 27th were dress related.
Wired obviously understood the potential of a dress story and came up with an ingenious spin on it that made it much more relevant and appealing to their science-loving audience. Wired knows their audience and knows how to get them.
Mashable Reports the News
Being that Mashable’s audience leans toward the female side (62% of the visitors are women), one could presume that the dress story would have a stronger effect on the website than on websites with less female visitors. Our data shows that Mashable’s traffic nearly doubled as a result of their coverage of the controversial dress. This topic resonated more with Mashable’s audience than it did with TechCrunch’s, but Wired’s article and its phenomenal success overshadows Mashable’s.
Mashable’s other substantial traffic peak in 2015 resulted from good old-fashioned publish-it-first journalism. On January 10th, 3 days after the attack at the Charlie Hebdo headquarters in Paris, Mashable was of the first to publish news of the first victim of the hacking collective Anonymous as part of their war against Islamic extremists. This article doubled the website’s traffic, mostly due to search traffic that drove 80% of the overall traffic to the website on January 10th, 2015.
We can easily identify the leading keywords and phrases visitors used to reach Wired in the Search Keywords section of the Site Analysis report. As you can see ‘Anonymous Charlie Hebdo’ was the top traffic generating keyword and mostly responsible for Mashable’s January 10th traffic peak.
Mashable is quick on its feet to report the news and engaging its audience on social channels. The website has a broader focus than Wired and TechCrunch and acts accordingly, reporting about everything that can be deemed news.
TechCrunch Adapts to Visitors
Now it was time to focus on TechCrunch. A Site Analysis report helps us quickly identify dates of interest to focus on: Jan 21st, March 9th and April 12th. TechCrunch’s leading traffic source is Search Traffic (53%), which is why we focused our attention on the Search Keywords section. We quickly identified a pattern, two out of the three traffic peaks (Jan 21st and March 9th) were generated by Japan related content. One was an article on the Japanese sub domain and the other was an interview with the CEO of Gumi, a Japanese mobile gaming company.
This pattern also came into play in smaller traffic increases, indicating that the TechCrunch is fully aware that its audience is interested in Japan and therefore covers the local market.
TechCrunch’s third prominent traffic spike in 2015 indicates yet again that the websites knows what their audience wants. The first four episodes of Game of Thrones season 5 leaked to the internet on April 12th 2015. TechCrunch anticipated the mass amount of searches and quickly published a very smartly titled article about the leak. TechCrunch knows their audience will be interested in the story, whether they intend to track down and watch the leaked episodes or are just hardcore Game of Thrones fans.
Bottom line: Knowing your audience, what they want, where they are and how to engage them is key in the digital era. There is no standard template, you need to constantly test, refine and adapt based on the outcomes. Trust in the data, for data never lies.
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