Gone are the days when news organizations had just copy editors and page designers. Today, there are newsroom titles like digital optimizer, audience analyst and executive mobile editor. As social media platforms have evolved so have job titles, along with the tools journalists use to communicate with audiences. In this series, RJI will learn more about these titles and the people who hold them.

This Q&A was edited for space and clarity.

Michael RollmanMichael Rollman is the digital optimizer for the Reno (Nev.) Gazette-Journal where he tracks the performance of digital advertising campaigns for rgj.com and tourist-oriented site Reno.com.

According to Rollman, his counterparts at other newspapers have titles such as digital performance analyst and digital campaign analyst.

What does a digital optimizer do on a daily basis?

This position includes analyzing a report that comes to us that shows us if the ads are on a good pace or a bad pace. We kind of watch that and monitor it. There are a whole lot of different aspects that we kind of analyze day to day.

There’s a lot of follow-up reporting after the campaign is finished to determine how well a campaign did. We look at different stats like amount of impressions that it had, how many clicks it got and what the click-through-rate percentage is.

In your job description I noticed your role includes optimizing ad campaigns. What does it mean to optimize a campaign and how do you go about doing that?

That means watching the pacing of the campaigns. If it’s not performing well, we need to open it up. It all hinges on content, too. How much traffic is focused at the content? It’s such a fluid thing.

Your news section can have 30,000 impressions one day and 100,000 impressions the next day. It’s just very up and down. Shorter campaigns can be challenging in the fluid nature of the online environment.

The ad serving system will try to equal out the campaign to fulfill the impressions requested. If you have a longer campaign, you have a longer amount of time for it to even out so that it will serve all of its impressions. If it doesn’t serve those impressions, we have to give back credit to the client because it didn’t serve as many impressions as they purchased.

So as the optimizer, I go in and look at that pacing and adjust it. If we need to open it up to more sections or we need to extend the dates on a campaign, we’ll do that. Also, if it’s getting a very low click-through rate, we’ll look at the creative and see if there’s not a good call to action. Is it asking someone to click on the ad? What’s the issue there? That goes back to what’s the sole purpose of the ad? There are branding ads where the advertiser is like, “Hey, I’m just trying to get my brand out there. I don’t necessarily care if someone clicks on my ad. I just want them to know that I’m here.” And other ads are really specific to a certain offer. They want you to click on an ad to follow through to a purchase. There are lots of different things to think about and look at.

How do you go about determining the success metric for each client?

It’s a lot of times based on what they’re expecting. If it’s a branding ad, they’re just looking at how many impressions it received and if all those impressions were delivered. They’re not necessarily worried about what the click-through rate was. Other people who have an offer are really interested in click-through rate. Let’s say 100 people click on their ad, then they can check their website or metrics and say, “OK, we did see 100 people come from the RGJ site and follow through with a sale.” They can look at their site and see how well it actually converted for them.

We do have tracking pixels. If our clients are interested in one, they can install a tracking pixel on their website so therefore we can track to see how far they went. They could put a tracking pixel on their shopping cart page so you could see how many people went from our ad all the way to the shopping cart.

What’s a tracking pixel and how does it work?

It’s just some code that’s placed in the ad. When someone clicks on the ad from their computer, it will actually log where they’re at. On the client’s site it will keep following so it’ll kind of match up. So when the tracking pixel on the client’s site is activated, you can tell that it came from our site.

What is the biggest challenge or hardest problem to solve in your job?

There are some specific data that is hard to get. We are trying to look at the number of campaigns that we’re doing and the number of impressions that they’re serving, year over year and month over month types of things. Getting those reports in more of an automatic fashion is difficult. Part of my job right now is looking into how I can automate those reports. As of right now I have to go through the pacing reports and manually take that information and place it into another report that calculates our year over year, month over month performance. It’s a lot of manual steps. The ultimate goal you want to have is for the reports to be automatic and the analysis to be more of your focus, rather than having to build your reports. We’re trying to get a handle on all the reports so we can look at the bigger picture and what the trends are.

Who does this job report to?

The manager of client services in the advertising department.

Jennifer Nelson  
Senior Information Specialist


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