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The Perfect Fit for a Complex Affiliate Business Model

  • October 01 2004, 1:00am EDT
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REVIEWER: John Bikus, chief marketing and sales officer for

BACKGROUND: is the leading provider of online obituary solutions for the newspaper industry, providing a content-rich solution that generates incremental income for 175+ newspapers nationwide.

PLATFORMS: Log files are located on a load balancer/cluster arrangement with three servers.

PROBLEM SOLVED: At 60 million page views and more than 2 million unique visitors each month, data complexity for is substantial. We are tasked to measure traffic and activity and disseminate it to our affiliates so they understand their sites' performance. We struggled to find a solution that could parse information across hundreds of channels, enabling us to report effectively without laborious manual processing. SageAnalyst has fundamentally transformed our reporting processes. Integral to that is SageAnalyst's interactive multidimensional reporting capability, which delineates between all 175+ affiliate newspapers and hundreds of associated reports. As a result, we can provide our affiliate newspapers with individual logins and access to their specific data, in real time. Manual labor and the associated expense have been virtually eliminated.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: SageAnalyst reports globally on traffic and site activity at We get an aggregate view of site performance across all 175+ affiliates, with insights into product performance, user behavior and the site's technical demands. We have created separate channels for each affiliate and granted them individual log-ins. As a result, rather than proactively running log reports and sending the information ourselves, as we did previously (a labor-intensive process), we have enabled our customers to access their data themselves 24x7.

STRENGTHS: Data processing and flexibility are main strengths of SageAnalyst. The almost real-time data processing and interface flexibility have reduced our resource investment enormously. Because we no longer have to manually process the data in house, we have literally saved days of manpower every month. Another strength of the product is accessibility. The ability to easily disseminate data to our affiliates was one of our highest priorities in selecting a new solution. The ability to provide varying levels of access to hundreds of clients using minimal resources is critical, and SageAnalyst excels in that regard. Responsiveness is also a product strength.

WEAKNESSES: While many of the data and account-related components can be easily configured, the product lacks overall customization options (for example, the inability to remove/modify the "What's New with SageMetrics" page upon entering SageAnalyst). There are other aesthetic considerations that negatively impact user interaction, such as the need to scroll left to right to read the names of reports, or the inability to rename or regroup reports.

SELECTION CRITERIA: The product came highly recommended from one of our newspaper affiliates.

DELIVERABLES: The product serves dual purposes: 1) Data portal for affiliates: Affiliates obtain traffic information for their pages through individual accounts. Affiliate reports provide basic traffic metrics to individual clients, and channel-level accounts provide aggregate data to corporate clients. 2) Internal metrics system: SageAnalyst is our resource for basic traffic metrics, and the Query Wizard component has helped us make decisions on everything from advertising to page placement to bandwidth use.

VENDOR SUPPORT: As a small but rapidly growing business with limited technical resources, we had difficulty getting started. Because of our unique needs (providing a new data access system to hundreds of clients and overhauling our internal processes), implementation required us to start from scratch. After configuring our basic data structure, we encountered significant discrepancies between SageMetrics and our previous solution. We worked for months to reconcile the data sets. During this period of data reconciliation, SageMetrics was excellent in answering pointed questions about the implementation; however, there was little guidance with regard to our data issues. Post-implementation response is very good. Answers to specific questions are always immediate, and their handling of some customer service from our affiliate partners was critical to the launch of the new interface. On several occasions, SageMetrics has gone out of their way to provide a bit more guidance and detail, especially when we're working on a very specific task.

DOCUMENTATION: Documentation is adequate. There are differences in the SageLite functionality (which is the standard for our affiliate partners), and the documentation doesn't reflect that as well as we'd like. There is little in the way of concise information for beginners or clients with very limited access, such as our affiliate partners.

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