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October 16, 2007

eMetrics - Rachel Scotto of Sony Pictures Provides Tuesday Keynote at eMetrics Summit

By Mike Churchill

How do you measure web site success when you have literally thousands of domains, your products are spread across five different media outlets, you don’t sell anything on the site, and the lifecycle of a site may vary from years to as little as several months?  These are some of the challenges that face Rachel Scotto of Sony Pictures Entertainment – Tuesday’s eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit Keynote speaker.

Sony Pictures is one aspect of the Sony brand, and in itself is divided into five verticals covering the movie, home entertainment (DVDs), and television.  The site’s focus is primarily promotional , not e-commerce, has no external ads, and has only limited selling opportunities (primarily links to Amazon and Fandango).

The challenges that they face concern integrating Web Analytics, Primary Research, and Secondary Research to get a picture of the many sites’ performance.  Each of these in turn present their own challenges.

Web Analytics
The volume of web sites being actively monitors require them to take a divide and conquer approach, segmenting their work week to provide reports on different verticals on different days of the week (e,g, Monday for movie sites, Wednesday for TV sites, etc.).

There are concerns over switching measurement tools.  Sometimes this is due to changes in management, changes in corporate direction, or is sometimes directed by the overall Sony corporate infrastructure (Sony recently penned a deal with Omniture to roll out their products across ALL of the Sony properties – not just the US sites).  Over the years , switching measurement tools has caused problems due to:

  • Labor to implement/customize tracking codes
  • Changes in labor force makes (re-)training an issue
  • Legacy date/historical benchmarking
    • In one test, she saw 10% delta between tools on one site, larger ("significant") differences on another
    • This makes it hard to gauge year over year performance

She developed a 20 page tracking code style guide that covers the what, the how, and the why of implementing the tracking codes on the site.  This document is provider to the designers and site implementers to insure a complete rollout.  Rachel emphasized that regardless of which tool is selected, the implementation and customization is so important to a successful implementation.

Primary Research
Sony Pictures utilizes a wide variety of primary research tools including:

  • Surveys (primarily online surveys)
  • Usability testing
    • great when launching new sites
  • Focus groups
  • Foresee Results (currently working on a study for wheeloffortune.com)

Secondary Research
Secondary research is a challenge for the company because of the limited availability of such information for the entertainment business.  Sony Pictures utilized a variety of sources, including Jupiter Research, Forrester, and eMarketer, as well as 3rd party web audience tools like HitWise and Comscore.  In addition, she is also able to glean some information from research services to which they do not subscribe by researching white papers and press releases released by such organizations as In-Stat and Leightman Research.

To make this information available within the organization, they segregated the reports (saved as :PDFs) into 20 or so category folders.  These files are available for download, and periodic emails are sent out about new additions.  Users can also subscribe to specific topics and receive the PDFs automatically when available.

Web Tracking on SonyPictures.com

Sony Pictures web tracking ability evolved over time, going through three distinct phases:

Phase 1 – basic tracking of html/php page views

Phase 2 – tracking of Flash content, message board use, podcasts.  They also began working with promotional partners to track cross-site behavior

Phase 3 – They implemented a billboard with 5 rotating pieces of content.  In addition, they began tracking what type of link (e.g. thumbnail or linking text) on portal pages

Their current approach to movie sites is to provide an HTML home page with several click options which in turn lead to an immersive, all Flash site.  During phase one, this home page was as far as they could track.  Now, they can track into the Flash site, and also track video viewing behavior.

Sony Pictures have some unique web metrics issues, due to the nature of their site.  Some of the specialized lectures that they track include tracking traffic by division, computing the ratio of home(splash) page to entry/use of the immersive site, video tracking (start, middle, and end of video), and on-site game plays.  They also have some special (although not unique) issues regarding tracking page-name standardization (especially with respect to the inclusion of the word “the”), spikes in traffic slamming their servers (this was especially true of the Spiderman3 launch), and balancing the desire for vanity URLs with a standardized directory structure.

Email and CRM introduce their own set of metrics, including:

  • Emails sent and delivered
  • Open rates
  • Email click-thrus
  • Total subscribers vs active subscribers for newsletters (active being defined as a no-bounce email with open/read activity within the last six months)
  • Unsubscribe rate
  • Email delivery bounce rate

All in all it was an interesting insight into the handling of a large multi-site confederation.

For Search Marketing Gurus, Mike Churchill of KeyRelevance Search Engine Marketing


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