On Public Radio Homepages, Our Audience Is Listening

Sep 6, 2013

The web is a visual medium. Since the html blink tag was created we have all been focused on the appearance of our websites, but for the public radio audience listening is critically important - even on the web. Rather than thinking of the homepage as a whole, we looked at the individual parts or functional elements to determine which were most effective at engaging visitors. In  a recent sample of homepage activities we found that the elements related to online streaming of radio content had the highest click through rate (CTR). Click Through Rate is calculated by dividing the number of clicks by the number of pageviews.

Click through rate for elements on Core Publisher home pages

Listening dominates homepage activities

Performance of all elements varied by station site, but listening related links had the highest average CTR out of all the tracked elements on Core Publisher homepages. Core Publisher stations using one or more "Listen" buttons in the header saw a combined CTR averaging above 25%, with a rate as high as 46% for one station's site.  The "Now Playing" block offers the ability to feature more than one stream format along with links to program information, schedules or even links to buy on itunes, but still performs slightly lower on average than the straight-forward "listen" button. When all listen related elements are combined, the CTR is over 50%. 

Local News drives clicks on homepage

There's also good news for local journalists; we saw that the elements designed to promote and merchandise news content like Lead Story(6%), Local News (5%), and Featured Content Rotator(2%) were also popular with users. In aggregate, over 14% of clicks went to elements related to news, but local news outperformed NPR Headlines. Online readers of station sites seem to have a greater interest in content written from the local perspective, although the consumption of local content tends to vary in relation to the amount of local content produced by the station.  

Is the juice worth the squeeze?

The majority of other elements and placements are receiving a low percentage of the overall clicks and while these items may still be attracting eyeballs, they aren't as effective at driving clicks. This gives us a good clue that spending a lot of time refreshing content in placements like the skybox or sticky strip may not be the most effective use of our time. Stations would likely find that their time is better spent on the elements that actually get clicks.

Credit Sam Howzit via Flickr

Imagine your homepage as an arcade full of bright and shiny games, and your audience as the child who has saved his allowance.  Your visitor has one coin that he can use, even though there are many interesting and compelling potential choices.  This is because, for each pageview, your visitor can only pick one thing to click. Once he clicks, he leaves the page and is unlikely to see it again in that session - his coin has been spent.  Keeping the choices clear and distinct can help the user to avoid being distracted by similar and competing elements and will keep you from wasting effort on elements that are unlikely to get attention.  Remember that most elements get fewer clicks than the footer - which is only clicked 3% of the time. When thinking about your homepage, ask yourself which element you would want them to chose - is that the one that you've emphasized?

Rest assured that Erin Teare Martin and the Core Publisher team are listening too. They'll be incorporating these findings into the core publisher redesign, which will deliver an elevated and enhanced listening experience.  Using click reporting for the elements on your site can help you understand how your audience interacts with the content and functionality of your site.  Subscribe to events in the Station Analytics System or read the development documentation on tracking events in Google Analytics.