For the past two years, Hearst has been quietly developing its own hit predictor.
Called Buzzing@Hearst, the analytics-driven platform analyzes thousands of articles across Hearst's vast array of properties, from newspapers and magazines to local TV stations, to determine which articles are trending higher so that editors can curate them for their sites.
For example, Hearst's TV station in Orlando produced a web video about an 11-year-old boy who shot a man who was trying to break into his family's home. Esquire then used Buzzing@Hearst for its own story. "The things that appeal to someone sitting over in Town & Country amazingly show up across all brands you wouldn't necessarily know would have an interest in it," said Hearst CTO Phil Wiser.
And now it's opening up the Buzzing platform to advertisers.
Buzzing works as a kind of extension of Hearst Exchange, its programmatic buying marketplace, giving advertisers a better idea of where to place their bets. Julie Clark, vp of sales and strategy, Hearst Core Audience, said that an advertiser can also buy a takeover of all Buzzing content. "The same way you would do a homepage takeover, you would own the Buzzing content for a day." Hearst has been talking with advertisers for the past three weeks, but would not reveal if any advertisers have signed on.
"The more scale we have of our premium content the better," said Clark.
Buzzing predicts trends among its content, taking a look at how the content is performing in search, on social channels, and its level of engagement, among other factors, and assigns it a number, from 1-20, making it easy for editors to see what's performing best. It's refreshed every 90 seconds. Editors can then take the article, rewrite it just enough to fit each separate properties' house style, and link back to the original. "A hit article will now get shared seven, eight or more times across different publications," said Wiser.
Hearst has been working on Buzzing for the past two years, and its editors have been utilizing it for the last year. Wiser said Hearst has purposely been quiet about Buzzing, wanting to make sure all the kinks are worked out before Hearst took it market. And Wiser is adamant that it's not cannibalizing its own audience by sharing too many of the same stories.
"We're not auto-populating everybody's streams," he said, noting that there's not much audience overlap. "The demographics split up whether geographically, or based on interest level."
Buzzing is latest example of Wiser's goal to beef up Hearst's technology capabilities, and in the process, think about Hearst as a whole rather than its many individual parts. Since Wiser came aboard four years ago, Hearst has launched Exchange; Core Audience, its cloud-based measurement platform; and MediaOS, its analytics-driven content distribution platform.
"We had such a huge set of assets that weren't being used to their full potential," he said. "They kind of all segregated, certainly things like digital audience was kind of spread out."
Like other media companies, Hearst's goal to present itself as one large company is the new normal. "In this market where Facebook and Google and others are absorbing a large portion of the ad dollars … you need to have scale," said Wiser.