Jeff Bezos purchased the Washington Post a few years ago after running Amazon.com for over a decade, and it looks like he brought his propensity for software engineering to the doorstep of the newspaper company. This idea can be seen through the creation of Arc Publishing, which has bottled up the processes needed to run a newspaper organization into various software modules ready to be used to by anyone willing to pay for it. Arc Publishing offers multivariate testing to increase visits and visit duration, widgets to improve visitor engagement and monetization features for improving the company bottom line.
As someone that has been following technology and journalism for so many years, I’m excited about the above reasons and those below. I can only see this venture into Journalism by a technologist like Jeff Bezos being the first.
All publishers want to pull in reams of traffic into their website, but they sometimes find it hard to get elements of an article perfectly optimized to get this done. Last-minute deadlines and breaking news add to this problem. To solve this problem, Arc Publishing uses a product called Bandito. Bandito allows for accelerated A/B testing of various titles, article descriptions and images. Each combination of variations is rated in real time and the ratings are compared in real time. The best set of variations will be used in the final permanent article presented to the public. For improving the graphic user interface, the company relies on the Darwin project, which runs A/B tests for various page elements. This automatic testing ensures that a page is not too cramped. The improved user experience will also contribute to visitor duration.
Engagement with articles should be maintained at all costs. High engagement means more numerous and lengthy visits for a newspaper. Using the Coral product aids in sustaining and improving engagement with newspaper content. Coral is a commenting system that includes features to discover users who contribute the most to newspaper’s online community. The product also gives the ability to highlight those contributors and encourage them to continue to engage. Arc Publishing also offers a “Story Tools” product which allows newspapers to produce polls and quizzes to get feedback from its readers. And user-generated content can also be collected and organized to display throughout a newspaper’s website as well.
After ensuring visits and engagement, a newspaper must have a way to make money, and fortunately, Arc Publishing also offers several products for this task as well. First, they have a metered paywall, which grants visitors a certain number of free articles per month. The paywall can also be configured to allow infinitely free articles based on the traffic source of the article (i.e. google or Bing search). The In Context product places branded quotes within an article in order to arouse user attention as sometimes users might tend to skip image-based advertising. The branded quote will catch their attention because users might initially assume that the quote is part of the article. This sneaky tactic should produce better results for advertisers and can actually benefit users who click on it because the text within the advertisement relates directly to the sponsored content which it leads to.
Arc Publishing has technology that goes beyond the basic content management system. Its technology is modular and benefits small and large newspaper organizations alike. The service offers products to grab reader attention and bring them to a website. Once on the website, user engagement can be aroused via various polls, quizzes or a comment section. And when users glance through newspaper content, their visits can be monetized through various quotes, sponsored content and paywall implementations.