This morning, Parse.ly launched Dash, a content management system smart enough to make a blogger weep with joy. It analyzes the Web to show publishers what’s hot. It tracks trends within the site, revealing what works for the audience. It points out when old posts are getting popular again. It follows individual authors over time and shows how their coverage performs. It shows where traffic is coming from to improve targeting. In short, it helps publishers plan.
It does all of this by analyzing the billions of page views it tracks anonymously across its whole user base. Parse.ly started as a feed reader for pros in 2009, and Dash expands its capabilities with predictive analytics for one’s own site. The software gets a sense of what topics and stories are most important and whether they’re trending up or down. That’s a great thing for publishers. Is it good for readers? I can’t wait to find out.
It’s no secret that blogging is a game of page views. Without good analytics, blogging is all about watching, intuition and guesswork. After you’ve done some of that, you write some spaghetti posts, throw them at the wall and see what sticks. Dash gives publishers the motherlode of data about page views and how to get them. It shows them the past and the present of their site, and its ability to measure Web-wide trends offers a glimpse of the future.
Dash offers three tiers of services starting at $499 per month. The basic “Track” tier enables internal tracking of authors, topics, sections and referrals, as well as predictive analysis of trends and real-time site stats. Tier 2, “Plan,” adds the Web-wide trend analysis, search and filtering within the analytics, customizable dashboards for editors and downloadable reports. The top tier, “Promote,” measures shares and impact across the social Web, and it sends email alerts to editors and writers when something urgent comes up.
A tool like Dash gives a site a huge advantage in the short term. While some sites putter along without this kind of detailed feedback, the ones who have it could dominate. The ability to see exactly which topics and events need covering, and exactly how to cover them for a particular audience, is a sort of online omniscience.
Vision, Voice & Tactics
But hopefully, in the long term, this will lead to a new generation of content sites that all have these abilities. If every publisher could know its audience this well, there would be no more spaghetti-against-the-wall, side-boob-heavy, all-caps-headlines blogging tactics.
This week, Gawker is experimenting by letting writers go crazy with these old-school page view tricks, hopefully to prove the point that they aren’t what the market really wants. But if all publishers had Dash or something like it, we’d all know that. Then the differences between sites would be all about editorial vision and voice, not just tactics.
It will be even clearer who’s playing to the crowd and who stands out. Sites who just play the predictive analytics game will all start to look the same. But the gift of a tool like Dash is that it helps sites get to know their audience. It highlights the surprising things. The sites that stand out will be the ones who know their audience so well that they can consistently surprise them.