Half the battle for online publishers is how to get visitors to their site. But once visitors get there, what content should be served? And how long should content stay up before cycling in something new? Startup Visual Revenue is helping publishers answer these questions with their predictive analytics tool. It allows publishers to increase the performance of their front pages by helping them decide what stories to put on the front page and how long to keep them there, and predicts the success of the article in the future. The company announced a new $1.7 million round of funding this week from IA Ventures and SoftBank Capital, which comes on the heels of a $500k seed round in July 2011.
The company is trying to become the “Bloomberg terminal of the online newsroom” through their Front Page Decision Support System. It predicts how an article will perform 15 minutes into the future, and makes recommendations on what content to place and for how long. The company promises increased visitor engagement, content relevancy and revenue from using the tool, which probably looks like an oasis in the desert to online publishers struggling to maintain advertising revenues.
The company has a unique perspective on the media industry, since they’re based in New York City on the AP newsroom floor. It was started by Dennis Mortensen, the founder of what became Yahoo! Web Analytics. Launched in January 2011, the company’s client list reads like a who’s-who of the media industry: CNNMoney, Forbes, and FastCompany to name a few of the 45 they currently have on board. The investors list also reflects how people are flocking to big data, with prolific angel Ron Conway on board, as well as big VC firms.
Tools like Visual Revenue give publishers dollar signs in their eyes and dreams of millions of pageviews, but often fill readers with skepticism. After all, they argue, shouldn’t the content that’s the most newsworthy and relevant be on the front page? Sensationalized headlines and the dreaded slideshow are already permeating online publications, so how does an editor stay true to the news while also optimizing for traffic and visitors in order to satisfy the bottom line? It also begs the question: should editors be analysts as well, accountable to numbers instead of news judgement?
Whatever the criticisms about the service, it’s obvious that predictive analytics are quickly being embraced by publishers. Visual Revenue’s new funding will allow the company to add seven new employees to the team, most of them technical hires who will continue to build out their analytics.