Page views, time on site, comments, likes and shares are just a few of the key metrics that every publisher needs to ensure their work is reaching and engaging the desired people.

But although data and analytics are integral to business, Tamar Riley, director of marketing and audience development at Refinery29, explained that audience insights can also play a huge role for growing readers and optimising content. 

"It's important for us to move offline and off the grid to get insights from our audience – and we have a team dedicated to do so," she said, speaking at Hacks Hackers London last week (16 October).

"We run focus groups, use a variety of social listening platforms and ensure our journalists ask our audience questions that reveal their opinions."

The publisher has a database of readers that they often interview to understand their thoughts on different subjects, before making their insights actionable.

"We look at what our audience is saying, and then explore the relevance, clarity and context of it – we can have a huge amount of insight, but if we don't act on it then what's the point?" she said. 

"It's important to analyse if it's a circular insight that we can keep feeding over time – a subject that is rich and evolving over time."

For example, Refinary29's Money Diaries series asks women around the country to anonymously tell them their spending for a week. 

The series is made up of user-generated content, giving them a broad view of how people spend their money.

"We found that our audience loves this content that they can contribute to – 65 per cent of them are coming to the site 9 times or more a month, with many of them leaving comments and asking for advice," she said. 

"We launched a Money Diaries Facebook group to facilitate these conversations, encouraging a community to develop and increase the frequency of site visits for these fans. 

"We didn't need to facilitate the questions for very long – the community was happy to post comments on their own and 77 per cent of them came to our website 15 times or more per month."

Riley explained that they turn the comments into content on site, providing deeper coverage of a topic that matters to readers, and driving more people to the Facebook group at the end of the article. 

"It is completely circular and insight-driven," she said.

Interested in online audience growth? It is on the agenda at our upcoming Newsrewired conference on November 7.

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