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NPR

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Building a data infrastructure

Cardinal Path designed, developed, and deployed a highly customized digital analytics infrastructure solution that vastly streamlined and improved data collection, management, and accessibility for NPR and its member stations.

Background

NPR (National Public Radio) produces and distributes radio, online and mobile content through a large network of over 900 independent stations across the country. They approached Cardinal Path for a way to deliver a standardized, easy-to-implement data collection and analysis strategy for its diverse network. NPR’s content strategy and production relies heavily on the analysis of click-stream, audio and social data aggregated across the websites and audio streams of its member stations, which operate on diverse technology platforms.

Challenge

In serving the data and reporting needs of its member stations, several complexities imposed a heavy burden of data aggregation, analysis and reporting for NPR’s analytics team. First there was the sheer number of digital properties – including microsites, shared audio streams and associated data-collection tools – which add up to thousands of data sources. On top of that, the member stations’ individual technology platforms significantly complicated the task of solution deployments and standardizing the resulting data. Second, the independent business nature of the member stations resulted in varying data reporting practices, often resulting in incomplete data. There was no single technology platform at NPR to collect data from all sources, including all sub-domains, social and streaming media. And in instances where data was complete, the roadblocks often presented themselves in the form of inconsistent data from different member stations. Finally, an inability to perform useful analysis at the station, genre- or system-wide level – or benchmark against comparable member stations – represented lost opportunities for feedback and growth. The aggregation and analysis of this data had become an intense and complex manual exercise and NPR’s analytics team had to spend untold hours each month collecting and piecing together incomplete, inconsistent data, analyzing it, and then reporting to stakeholders ranging from the stations themselves to internal NPR teams. NPR was in need of robust and standardized data architecture, plus administration tools and a reporting system capable of spanning multiple data sources. Above all, it had to be simple enough to be deployed, adopted and easily managed across the myriad technology platforms of its extensive member network.

Solution

The solution simplified the deployment and tagging process, created uniformity across web properties and used Google Analytics Premium’s dynamic platform to make it possible for NPR to understand how visitors interact with various forms of content across their entire network. The complexities of highly customized and varied tracking tags from numerous data collection platforms were condensed into a single, easily deployed, platform-agnostic container tag. The automated tag generation and centralized tag management for each affiliate enabled NPR to ensure consistency and uniformity of data collection across its network.
WITH THIS SOLUTION IN PLACE, EACH OF NPR’S MEMBER STATIONS CAN NOW EVALUATE THEIR OWN STATION/SITE PERFORMANCE AND COMPARE IT TO PEER GROUPS DEFINED ALONG GENRE CLASSIFICATIONS, GEOGRAPHIES, SIZE, AND CONSUMERS.
Data accuracy was improved through a standard data model and with Google Analytics Premium serving as the backbone of the digital analytics infrastructure solution, the breadth of data was expanded by integrating web data from an array of domains with other sources such as audio, social and video. For the first time, consistent campaign definition enabled measurement against real and impactful business objectives.

RESULTS

NPR delivered real value to its network of member stations and saved untold dollars in time and resources by automating and standardizing a very complex data collection and reporting system. In conjunction with Google Analytics Premium’s power to integrate data and then present it quickly and intuitively, NPR was able to provide member stations with clean, robust and reliable data without being limited by their web platform or IT resources. The outcome is that today, performance measures have evolved into actionable insights that will drive continual improvement across the entire NPR ecosystem.

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