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What if you could predict if an article was going to be popular before you write it?


Among the greatest frustrations of writing is that you put in a lot of *upfront* work and only find out at the *very end* if people are interested in what you have to say. You could invest hours, days, or years in a writing project, only to find out that you’ve picked a bad idea that doesn’t interest people.

We’ve encountered this problem a lot at Priceonomics, and it’s agonizing to experience this letdown.

Is there a way to de-risk the process of content creation? 

What if you could test your audience’s interest in a topic *before* you start writing? For content marketers, pre-testing ideas could save thousands of dollars and weeks of their team’s time.

So we built something. We’ve been thinking about this problem for a long time, but it took several “aha” moments before we could piece it all together.

We call it Priceonomics Idea Tester. It’s a software tool that lets you test how popular blog posts will be *before* you even write them.

Idea Tester is part of our new Content Science Platform, which we use to create content with our Priceonomics Data Studio customers. It’s a set of software tools that content marketers can use to make content creation more of a reproducible process. To get a demo of this platform, send us a message here.

So, what is Idea Tester, and why did we build it?

The Birth of the Idea

There is nothing worse than spending weeks writing a blog post, only to see it flop when you hit publish.

The signs are there right away. Google Analytics real time visitors don’t increase significantly. The click-through rate from your newsletter is low. People don’t share the article on Facebook and Twitter.

In these cases, the problem isn’t your writing or your analysis. The problem is that people never clicked the link to your article. In other words, your topic or idea is the problem. 

Readers just see a title, picture, and snippet of text before deciding whether your article interests them or not. If people decide whether they’re interested before they’ve read a word of your article, then no amount of virtuoso writing can save you from a bad idea.

When we looked at our own data, we found that articles that had high click-through rates tended to do well. People had yet to read the articles, yet there was some predictive power in looking at how interested they were in the title, an image, and a small preview.

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After years of staring at our analytics to see how articles were faring right after publication, we had a small breakthrough.

Do we even need to write an entire article to test if people are at least interested in the concept?

That’s where Idea Tester comes in. 

Idea Tester is a software tool that lets you test the concept for a blog post before you write the blog post. All you need is a title, a cover image, and a “stub” for the article you’re thinking about writing. (If you want to learn more about this, send us a message.) 

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Idea Tester works by purchasing a $10 ad for each concept and measuring the click-through rate on the ads. $10 isn’t always enough to give you a statistically significant result, but frequently it gives you an insight that helps you avoid writing articles no one cares about.

Your idea test is loaded into our very plain and boring CMS and hosted by us on a domain that is not associated with you. Here’s what it would look like.

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But at the same time, Idea Tester posts alternative concepts, and we measure the click-through rate on each one.

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Should we conduct an exhaustive study on which cities are getting overrun by Airbnbs? It’s not clear people care about that topic more than learning which cities have the most expensive Airbnbs. And if people don’t really care, journalist are less likely to care as well. 

You can test anything really. What does your college major say about your later life?

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If you’re in e-commerce, what kind of topics should you write about?

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Should you write about IKEA or Millennials living at home?


When we work with our Data Studio customers, we begin with a brainstorm session about potential topics for content marketing. But now, our next step is to test all our blog post ideas using Idea Tester. The tests don’t tell you what to do, but they can help guide you towards the right concept to explore before you invest hours in research and writing.

Idea Tester is part of the new Priceonomics Content Science Platform. The platform is a set of tools that lets anyone create, optimize, and distribute great content marketing.

If you’d like a demo of the platform, send us a message here.