Turning on the Light in Content Analytics’ Dark Room

When I think about our mission to crack the code on content measurement, I can’t help but recall the remarkable story of a mathematician named Andrew Wiles.

The year was 1994. While much of the world was busy listening to a new Green Day album called Dookie, Wiles, a professor at Princeton, had just solved one of the oldest riddles in mathematics—a conjecture written in the margins of a book by Pierre de Fermat in 1639:

No three positive integers a, b, and c satisfy the equation an + bn = cn for any integer value of n greater than two.

Fermat noted that the proof was too big to fit in the margins, and for 355 years, it remained a mystery. To find the solution, Wiles toiled for over six years in secrecy and won just about every award imaginable when he emerged with his proof. Here’s how he described his journey:

“Perhaps I can best describe my experience of doing mathematics in terms of a journey through a dark, unexplored mansion. You enter the first room of the mansion and it’s completely dark. You stumble around bumping into the furniture, but gradually you learn where each piece of furniture is. Finally, after six months or so, you find the light switch, you turn it on, and suddenly it’s all illuminated. You can see exactly where you were. Then you move into the next room and spend another six months in the dark.”

That brings me back to marketing analytics. Two years ago, we turned on the light in the first room when we built an analytics suite that could reveal how people engage with web-based content, tracking everything from engaged time to scroll depth to scroll velocity.

But we knew there was another room that remained shrouded in darkness, especially for a B2B brand like us: How were people engaging with assets that didn’t live on a web page?

Brands spend a remarkable amount of money each year creating dark assets like white papers, slideshows, pricing worksheets, and sales collateral, to name a few. But once these assets make their way to download folders and inboxes all over the world, they are essentially lost. Are people actually reading them? Are they dropping off at a certain point? Do they share them within their organization?

For web-based content, we have answers to these questions. But when it comes to downloadable content, marketers—especially B2B marketers who rely heavily on this type of content—have still been stumbling over furniture in a dark room.

It’s an incredibly frustrating problem, and one of the biggest holes in content marketing analytics to date. Not only is it something we’ve struggled with when trying to help our clients, but it’s also something we’ve wanted to solve for our own content marketing efforts.

Luckily, however, we’ve found the light switch.

With last week’s acquisition of Docalytics, we’re adding document analytics to Contently’s content marketing platform. In other words, we’re now able to measure the success of all marketing and sales assets. We can measure everything from how much of a document someone read to heat maps of where they clicked to conversion success and much more. That means content creation and marketing budgets can be optimized based on detailed results, not just educated guesses. It’s also a huge value-add for other departments—now, our sales team can actually know how much a prospect read of that deck or case study as well as whether or not the prospect passed it along to any colleagues.

Moving forward, we’ll continue to embrace our inner Andrew Wiles. The vision of end-to-end tracking of all types of content, the fully lit and explored mansion, will continue to be our guide. Hopefully it won’t take us 355 years.

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