The Personalities Behind the Latest News Websites—An Explainer

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'Tis the season for the personality-driven news site—and little wonder. A recent eMarketer study revealed that adults last year spent more time with digital media than TV, newspapers and magazines combined. Meanwhile, Pew Research Center reported that news sites generate $800 million to $1.2 billion per year in revenue, and total ad revenue grew 16 percent last year. While we wait to see whether they'll fly, here are some basic stats about three sites fronted by boldface names.

Ezra Klein
Launch date April 6
What it covers General news
What it says it is Helps you “understand the news” via Vox Cards, slides that answer questions about current events
What it seems like Flash cards about politics and pop culture, especially legalizing weed
Hottest Story Remember when legalizing pot was going to send crime skyrocketing?
Twitter/Facebook followers 70,600/21,585
Type of ads Launch sponsors: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and General Electric

The Intercept
Glenn Greenwald (plus Gawker’s John Cook and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar)
Launch Date Feb. 10
What it covers National security and intelligence
What it says it is Obsessive look into leaked NSA documents; plans to expand into “adversarial and impolite reporting” vs. narrow beats
What it seems like A lot of rabble-rousing; infrequent posts<
Hottest Story How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive and Destroy Reputations<
Twitter/Facebook followers 54,300/6,470
Type of ads First Look Media has met with brands and agencies that share the yet-to-be-clearly defined mind-set of the site, in which Omidyar has invested $250 million

Figurehead Nate Silver
Launch Date March 17 (relaunched under ESPN)
What it covers Economics, science, lifestyle, sports and (of course) politics
What it says it is Data trumps all; boils stories down to cold, hard stats; detailed infographics, analytical videos
What it seems like Ex-NYT numbers guru has interests other than politics
Hottest Story NCAA tournament predictions
Twitter/Facebook followers 167,000/30,815
Type of ads Launch sponsor: E*Trade; looking for more ad partners

April 21st 2014 News, Technology

Fast Five in Search – Week 17, 2014

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Last week I treated you to five of my favorite Social Media Marketing News Sources. This week I share the remaining five that wouldn’t fit on last week’s list.

Here’s this week’s Fast Five – Top Social Media News Sources (continued):

1) Social Media Today – This site claims to pull together “the world’s best thinkers on social media”. While that statement is always going to be relative, I can vouch for the consistent freshness of their content. Be sure to check out their infographics channel while you’re there.

2) Social Fresh – Themed in a happy orange, this blog provides exactly what it says on the label – a collection of fresh updates about social media. What makes Social Fresh unique is their angle toward social media education. Their goal is to inspire people to create better businesses through social media via social media conferences and online training programs.

3) Expanded Ramblings Social Channel – As a reminder, Expanded Ramblings have an extensive library of Internet statistics and Infographics. Much of their content is dedicated to social media and this link will take you straight to that good stuff. If you need to find recent social media usage statistics or related stats, you’re bound to find something here.

4) TechCrunch Social Media Channel – As I’ve blogged about in the past, the TechCrunch network reaches over 12 million unique visitors and draw more than 37 million page views per month, with more than 2 million friends and followers on the various social media channels. This is their exclusive news channel for all things social media.

and finally…

5) Social Times – A recent discovery, this site is dedicated exclusively to social media news and is published by Media Bistro – a long time provider of jobs, news, education, events, and research for the media industry.

Happy reading!

*Image courtesy of Threadless.

April 21st 2014 blogging, News, Social Media

Putting the ‘Star’ in Starbucks: Getting Digital Right

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Starbucks Store

Image from: Starbucks Coffee / Costa Developers

Coffee: the drug of choice for busy professionals, sleep-deprived college students, Twitter bio writers, and me. The caffeinated landscape is filled with brands, brews, and beans — but it’s safe to say that nobody has quite the stronghold over the cafe market than Starbucks.

How does Starbucks get digital right? Let’s take a look.

Cultivating a Cultural Phenomenon through Email Marketing

The first digital strength is holiday-specific, but Starbucks’ seasonal success is anything but temporary. The coffee connoisseur’s holiday promotions go above and beyond by creating a cultural sensation, not a passing marketing stunt. (In fact, Starbucks’ “Red Cup Season” is anticipated year-round — devoted fans have even created a countdown page, complete with fan-driven Twitter campaigns).

Starbucks has a holistic way of approaching the holiday season involving large design teams that work on themed subscription emails, the famed “red cups,” product packaging, and a variety of advertisements. These themes tie seasonal products (such as pumpkin, peppermint, and gingerbread-flavored drinks; Thanksgiving and Christmas roasting blends; and themed mugs or appliances) to their annual marketing traditions and foster a caffeinated culture of holiday cheer. 

The impact of carefully thought-out strategy can be seen in the holiday hikes in their online traffic, as seen in the table below.

Monthly UVs Starbucks

I know what you’re thinking. That proves nothing, right? Well, take a look at where’s incoming traffic comes from.

A strong portion of their incoming traffic comes from the email branches of Google and Yahoo, suggesting that many subscribers click-through promotional emails sent by Starbucks. For a company with a strong ecommerce business as well as popular in-person franchises, strong clickthrough rates can involve consumers purchasing products online, or taking coupons in-store.

Monthly Incoming Traffic Starbucks

Check out these beautiful email promotions that I’ve received from Starbucks — see for yourself how their design strategy promotes clickthroughs!

This is a small sample of the emails I’ve received through my own subscriptions. Starbucks is diligent in sending them, yet not so overzealous that I find myself annoyed. Why? I think it’s due to their stellar email subject lines and commitment to relevant content.

Starbucks' BOGO campaigns inspire purchases (and friendliness)!
Limited-time point accumulation offers feed directly into their rewards program.
Starbucks totally nails their emails with gorgeous, image-embedded links and beautiful graphics.
Not only is there a link embedded in the image, there's a call-to-action  and a hashtag campaign.

A Powerfully Digital Rewards Program

The second main contributor to Starbucks’ success is their rewards program (which one can become an official, Gold Card-carrying member of). All of the coffee company’s gift cards are re-loadable and can be registered online. Consumers can gain points-per-purchase towards free items, extra discounts, and membership discounts. Tiered levels of membership benefits also inspire more purchases.


Image from: Gold Card / The Starbucks Blog

The program is largely hosted online, but also has strong mobile capabilities. Gift card balances can also be accessed & updated via Starbucks’ mobile app — and one can even pay for drinks with a digital barcode. The seamless integration of the mobile app into Starbucks Rewards services is certainly commendable! It provides an excellent, unified cross-device experience and capitalizes on digital opportunities.

Now, the iOS version of the Starbucks app offers greater functionality and more interesting features such as digital tipping and a customizable personal drinks menu — but the core payment options are available on either platform. 

One way to know how popular the rewards program is to check Starbucks’ search referrals. Last month’s searches for starbuck’s digital presence came up in several different iterations in the website’s top 50 search keywords.

Daily Referrals Starbucks

A Cohesive Experience

Long story short, Starbucks’ success in #GettingDigitalRight comes from closely integrating their offline/online marketing initiatives and creating a seamless (and real-life) user experience. Their digital strategy seems quite complementary of their brand strategy, and vice versa.

Their data usage isn’t perfect, of course (Starbucks admits that understanding the vast amounts of data they’ve invested in isn’t always easy), but they’re consistently taking steps in the right direction. Understanding their data to better tailor their already solid digital strategy would be something they can do to continue getting digital right!

What do you think about Starbucks’ digital marketing strategy? Let us know in the comments below, or take a look at Compete PRO data to learn more.

Starbucks Rewards

April 18th 2014 Mobile, News

The Compete PRO Success Story Winners Are…

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Image from: Winning! / Shutterstock

A few weeks ago we launched a “Success Stories” contest, encouraging our clients to share their stories about how Compete PRO has helped them to achieve great things. The submissions we received were fantastic. There is no better feeling for all of us here than hearing about our users’ love for what we do and we appreciate everyone that took the time to submit their stories. Unfortunately we can only choose three winners. So after giving this a lot of thought, the winners are:

Heather Nigro, Chris Picou, and Mark Terao!

Congratulations to our three winners! You are now proud owners of brand new tablets. And since we enjoyed reading all three of the winners’ stories so much we decided to share them with you too:

Heather Nigro’s story:

“In developing our Strategy practice at Corra, Compete PRO is used as the foundation for our benchmarking analysis that we use in building an eCommerce roadmap for clients.  An IR 500 retailer of ours was having some challenges during the 2012 holiday season, and we wanted to ensure that we identified the bottlenecks so 2013 would be a success.

Using Compete PRO, we identified key peaks in traffic during earlier parts of the year vs. their competitor and were able to drill down into the results of what made that particular timeframe successful over others. In preparation for the holiday season, we took this data into account and planned an online campaign using the metrics that were uncovered.  The success we saw was even better than we imagined, with a conversion rate increase of 42% and overall site traffic up from 75k to 200k!  Preparation + opportunity = success!  With Compete PRO, we are able to open up the bottlenecks to create success for our clients in our Strategy practice. The metrics really speak for themselves and have helped set us apart from our competitors in how we present our eCommerce strategies and advisement.”

Chris Picou’s story:

“I work directly with over 90 different performance based advertisers in the highly competitive world of internet marketing. I am heavily involved in the real estate, financial, and Insurance verticals. I utilize SEM, Email, display, and contextual marketing across more than 500 active campaigns. Each of my advertisers require high performance marketing campaigns to grow. Compete PRO is the marketing intelligence engine that powers all of my campaign strategies. When building any campaign I use incoming traffic data, on my Compete PRO dashboard, to identify where my competition is investing their marketing dollars. When working on backend monetization strategies I use Compete PRO’s outgoing traffic data to identify how my competition is generating income on their site(s). These tools are simple, easy to use, and typically save me hours of work and thousands of dollars in media testing. Compete PRO allows me to start at the pace of my competition so I can focus on winning, and not catching up.”

Mark Terao’s story:

“Our company just recently signed up with Compete PRO, and it’s allowed us to start successfully bidding on new search terms that our competitors are using to drive traffic to their site.  In addition, we’ve leveraged the competitive traffic charts to highlight our growth versus competitors.  These charts have been used in our National Conference (representing GM’s from our 115 Distribution Centers in the U.S) to reinforce our online growth, and provide momentum to sign-up +8,000 Tire Installers on our website.”

Thanks again to all of our users that participated in the Compete PRO Success Stories contest. Keep an eye out for future Compete PRO promotions and your chance to win something awesome like our three winners did!

April 18th 2014 News

Fast Five in Search – Week 16, 2014

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After posting my list of Top Digital Marketing News Sources a few weeks ago, some of you asked me if I could recommend some sources that focus exclusively on social media and social marketing news. I’m happy to oblige with this week’s Fast Five. There’s more than five, but let’s stick to the format and reveal five at a time (more next week).

Here’s this week’s Fast Five – Top Social Media News Sources:

1) SiteProNews Social Media News – SiteProNews is probably the largest single source of daily social media news that I visit in my morning rounds. Because their article feed is collated by author tags, the stories can be filed under several categories, including social media (linked above), social media marketing and social networking articles, so be sure to check each category for the latest stories.

2) Social Media Examiner – Pitching as the world’s largest online social media magazine, Social Media Examiner was founded by well known copywriter Michael Stelzner. With a flock of well known self-help gurus as guest bloggers, Social Media Examiner helps businesses discover how to best use social media, blogs and podcasts to connect with customers, drive traffic, generate awareness and increase sales. Technorati ranks Social Media Examiner as one of the world’s Top 5 business blogs.

3) Social Media Explorer – Headed up by social butterflies Nichole Kelly and Jason Falls, Social Media Explorer is a strategic services agency focusing on both social media marketing and digital marketing. As well as articles about social media marketing and search engine marketing, this site also provides an extensive selection of articles about public relations, media and journalism.

4) VentureBeat Social Media News – A little bit Huff Post, a little bit Mashable, this quirky site aims to “provide deep context to help executives, entrepreneurs, and tech enthusiasts make smart decisions”. With 11 million monthly pageviews, the site is growing in popularity and seems to source more unique social media news than some of the bigger players. A handy bookmark if you’re looking for a new perspective on social.

and finally…

5) MarketingLand Social Media Channel – was developed as an offshoot of the successful SearchEngineLand run by Danny Sullivan and his team. Given the constant morphing of search engine marketing and social media marketing, it made sense to expand topics across separate sites under more relevant category headings and domains. This is the new and improved social media newsfeed now hosted on, but you can see older social media archives over on

I’ll complete the list with my five remaining Top Social Media News Sources next week.

Happy news hunting!

*Image courtesy of Threadless.

April 14th 2014 blogging, News, Social Media

Sunday Series: March (Monthly Metrics) Madness!

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March Madness Stock Photo

Image from: Basketball / Shutterstock

Like the flowers of spring, our March data is out, and with that comes our fast moving categories! It’s no small surprise that College Sports made it as one of our top growing categories. Check out what websites spurred on increased traffic!

As to be expected, March Madness drives traffic to NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) websites in droves. Every March sees the NCAA’s Division I basketball teams facing off to win the championship., the official website of all the championships, rightfully saw an increase of 882.74% in monthly unique visitors, while (which focuses more on the organization and its information than the day-to-day sports coverage) also saw MoM UV growth at 36.69%.

Most top-performing sites in this category saw considerable MoM growth, but it’s important to note what types of websites they were. Two sites dedicated to competitive conferences (the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big Ten) both saw over 75% in monthly UVs. College-specific sites also did particularly well. As seen in the table below, the University of Wisconsin took the lead for collegiate websites, with the University of Kentucky, the University of Michigan, the University of Tennessee, and the University of Nebraska rounding out the rest.

The first four of the collegiate websites, interestingly enough, are part of CBS Interactive (with CBS and Turner Sports branding their coverage of the Div I championship as “March Madness”). is considered property of Turner Sports Interactive.

What did you find interesting about March Madness web traffic this year? Let us know in the comments below!

Fast Movers College Sports March 2014

April 14th 2014 News

The Weekly Compete Pulse

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Weekly Pulse

This week was our Digital CMO Summit week — and it’s fitting that our top-shared articles from the web focus on new trends in digital! Read up on them and tell us what you think in the comments below.

Why the Digital Revolution is Really Just Getting Started

It seems that our world is becoming all digital, virtually all the time. But what does that really mean? This article from Forbes digs a bit deeper into the various parts of our lives that digital touches — and how new tech is taking off. Looking at retail, manufacturing, medicine, energy, and software, the piece gives an interesting look at how our world is changing. Read more here!

Unlocking our Digital Sixth Sense with Mobile Technology

In line with the previous article, TIME Magazine brings us a piece on the Internet of Things and increasingly digitally integrated lives. Calling a potential adaptive skill the “digital sixth sense,” author Tim Bajarin brings up interesting points on whether a sixth-sense world is coming sooner than we think — and what tech companies may be doing to push the world in this direction. Learn more at!

Colleges Find New Ways to Recruit Today’s Social Media Savvy High School Students

This month is SIR/commitment season for admitted students, so the recruiting buzz is at its prime. But before the college application process even comes to this point, colleges need to promote their campuses in order to get seniors to apply! How are they learning to appeal to a student population that was born and raised with the internet? By using social media. Tailoring your strategy to your target audience is especially important – so read up on how a few universities have re-thought their advertising.

20 Devastating Content Marketing Mistakes

Content marketing isn’t easy. Making your entire online content presence cohesive and direct is even harder! This piece by Red Website Design explores 20 of the reasons why businesses suffer from unsuccessful content marketing campaigns — and shows you how you can revise your strategy for the better. With friendly and humorous cartoons that bring out their key points, Red Website Design makes it easy to pinpoint mistakes (and hopefully even easier to fix them). Read more at their website – I promise it’ll bring out a chuckle or two.

April 13th 2014 News, Social Media, Technology

March Data is Now Live – March Madness Wins the Month

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basketball net

Image from: Basketball Shot / Shutterstock

Perfect timing—the NCAA basketball championship was last night (congrats, Huskies!) and March data is live in Compete PRO, chock-full of interesting data pertaining to this year’s March Madness. I also wanted to take this opportunity to thank you all for your awesome Compete PRO success stories submissions! We’ll be announcing the winner soon so stay tuned.

The home of college basketball March Madness,, experienced the growth they usually see in March and then some. Growing unique visitors by more than 10% year-over-year (YoY) is an impressive feat when we’re talking about millions of Americans. Much of that growth can be attributed to fellow monthly fast mover,, which sent over 1 million visits to in March. With its hub for keeping up with game scores, as well as fantasy brackets and round-the-clock coverage, was the fourth favorite destination for March Madness fans seeking updates. Looking at a keyword report for “March Madness,” we can see that was only bested by the NCAA, ESPN, and Yahoo! in terms of traffic for the keyword. Also interesting to note is that while historically, users seem to be more engaged with in terms of average stay, March 2014 marks the first month where is only about a minute shy of engagement.

Monthly Fast Movers March 2014

Besides college basketball, television also made a big splash in March. Three big television events that helped propel sites like into the fastest growing for the month include the much-anticipated series finale of How I Met Your Mother on CBS, the series finale of USA’s Psych (which has a notably lively online fan community), and the season finale of the continually popular Walking Dead series on AMC. Keywords related to all three of these shows made an appearance in the top 50 keywords driving traffic to

In the online news world,’s traffic grew significantly in March. Search referrals suggest that much of the traffic was U.S. Internet users’ interest in two global crises, the situation in Ukraine and Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 (9 of the top 50 related to Ukraine and 3 of the top 50 related to Malaysian Airlines). users have been increasingly engaged lately as well with average stay over six minutes in March and users visiting more than three pages per visit.

Yearly Fast Movers March 2014 makes an interesting appearance in the yearly fast movers this month. They switched their website from to at the beginning of this year, and while traffic took a brief dip at the start of the year, it seems to be back on track. Before the switch, they were averaging around 9-10 million unique visitors per month and since then, they’ve only managed to top 7 million once, but strong growth in March is a good sign.

If you need early access to the latest month’s data and you’re not a Compete PRO user, start your free trial of Compete PRO today to get early data and more!

April 9th 2014 News

The Compete Weekly Pulse

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Weekly Pulse

Happy April! Spring is blooming and we’re excited for the beautiful weather. But we’re also excited about these interesting articles from the web — our followers found these exceptionally intriguing, and so we’re more than thrilled to share them with you.

Email Remains the Best Digital Channel for ROI

Email isn’t dead yet. In fact, if you’re looking to get a great run for your money, you should stick with it! This article from Econsultancy features interesting statistics and great charts to help you understand how to harness the power of email for maximum ROI. Read up on it here!

The 9 Best Email Subject Lines to Increase Open Rates 

Now, considering that email isn’t obsolete, there are definitely ways to make your mailing list open all your letters. What do they see when they first open their inboxes? The subject line! Wordstream brings us nine great types of subject lines that can help you improve your open rates (and following that, clickthroughs, etc). Detailed examples and quick suggestions partner with a logical explanation to showcase the best ways to catch consumer attention. Start increasing your open rates after learning more here.

Blog More, Facebook Less and 7 More Trends from Social Media Marketing World 2014

SMMW is an event hosted by one of the leading authorities on social media marketing: the Social Media Examiner. Content marketing aficionado Ryan Hanley attended and wrote up a nice list of takeaways for all of us to learn from! As the title reads, one of the biggest ideas suggests a less  social media promotions and more original content creation. Read more about why content marketing is so important, and find six other trends to take note of at his blog post!

Wearable Tech Craze Sees Samsung and HTC go for Similar April Fool’s Day Gags

April Fool’s Day is always fun, especially when a prank has been extremely well-played and often premeditated. Tech giants Samsung and HTC jumped on the wearables hubbub with incredible (false) product designs that serve a wide variety of functions. Some are believable (maybe we’ll get some of these features soon), while some are utterly ridiculous. Read more about their product pranks over at Digital Trends — but also look up Toshiba’s own wearables video prank!

April 5th 2014 News, Social Media

Subscription Services Shake Up Ecommerce

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Beauty Products

Image from: Beauty Products / Shutterstock

What’s old is new again in the world of subscription box services.

Subscription box services are still a bit of a novelty in the retail world, but they have quickly become an innovative and extremely popular way for consumers to sample a variety of products in an affordable, convenient way. Shoppers simply provide the subscription provider with a bit of personal information about who they are and what they like, and each month, for a low cost, a customized box of product samples appear. Both parties, company and consumer, win… in theory.

In reality, the subscription model may not always have the desired effect for the retailer. Birchbox ranks as one of the most highly recognizable subscription services, and since its launch in 2010, subscription order numbers and web traffic have steadily increased, as evidenced by Compete PRO monthly traffic data.

Uvs and Visits Birchbox

However, despite increased traffic, there is a disconnect when it comes to Birchbox subscribers purchasing full sized products directly from the Birchbox website.

Average Stay has decreased both month over month and year over year for Birchbox. In conjunction with a decreasing Average Stay, the Outgoing Traffic report for illustrates that consumers may start product research at, but quickly navigate to a search engine or brand partner like Sephora to execute a purchase. Simply put, although the product samples come from Birchbox, consumers take purchasing action elsewhere on the web.

Avg PPV Birchbox

BirchBox Outgoing Traffic

To combat the apparent disconnect among their subscribers, Birchbox will invest in traditional retail tactics to revolutionize their current business model, and potentially the entire landscape of the retail industry. Birchbox hopes that by adding brick and mortar locations to their already powerful arsenal, their consumers will be more likely to buy directly from Birchbox, in person and online, as opposed to purchasing from brand partners.

Birchbox founders Hayley Barna and Katia Beauchamp created their subscription service to make it easier and less intimidating for women to navigate the ever expanding world of cosmetics. Now, the company will continue to leverage the notion of ease to make a bold business decision.

Birchbox will rely on the roots of retail to revolutionize the modern day shopping experience and make it less complicated. The company is set to open its first retail store in late spring. What exactly does the brick and mortar element bring to the table? The total retail experience. Rather than navigating through, what can feel like, disjointed channels to ultimately make a purchase, Birchbox aims to eliminate any confusion about where to purchase. With the new, multi layered strategy, consumers will now know how to interact with the brand and create a relationship with it on all levels, whether it be online or in person.

Birchbox believes that a stronger relationship with consumers has the potential to seamlessly translate into increased revenue.

Experts in the industry agree. Teresa Novellino of the Upstart Business Journal states, “For the brick-and-mortar vanguard, these new players are worth watching, because they are bringing some of the greatest assets of the online shopping experience in-store. For example, Rent the Runway allows customers to go online and set up a virtual fitting room for themselves so that the outfits they want to try on are waiting when they arrive. Bonobos keeps inventory (and hence costs) to a minimal with its Guideshop concept, which lets shoppers visit the store and get one-on-one attention while they try on, but everything is ordered online.”

The coming months will determine whether the concept is a success for Birchbox specifically, but as the subscription ecommerce space continues to become more crowded, increased investment in traditional methods, such as a brick and mortar element, may determine which subscriptions brands succeed and which fall flat. 

April 1st 2014 News