Decoding the wild world of analytics

One of the things we get asked about a lot—and rightly so—is analytics. In brief, analytics refers to the ability to track what users are doing in your published tablet app. It can be a very useful tool for figuring out what your users want, where they’re getting stuck and, perhaps most crucially, whether they’re looking at your ads. Here I’ll try to give a brief overview of what you can get out mag+ today and how you implement it.

How Analytics Works

There are several companies that provide analytics services. They typically have some code that gets built into the app, which then anonymously tracks a user’s actions and, when that iPad next gets online, beams that data back to the company’s server, where it gets displayed in a dashboard for you. mag+ has code for three of these services built into our app—Flurry, Localytics and Omniture—so you can choose the one you want to use. Once you’ve done that, the app starts collecting and beaming that info, and you simply log on to your account with that provider and check out your data. mag+ doesn’t track any data itself, and you don’t have to go through us to get to it—your relationship with Flurry, Localytics or Omniture is yours and you know we’re not seeing or using your data for our own purposes.

How to Implement it

The first thing you need to do is set up an account with one of the three analytics providers mentioned above. When you do, you’ll tell it the name and ID of the app you’re tracking. As for implementing it in mag+, analytics is what we call a “live option”—that is, something you can designate and set up (or change) after your app is live, without submitting an app update. That’s because the code for all three services is built into every app—you’re just telling it which service to use, and every time the app is online, it checks the backend for that choice. So setting it up it is simple:

  1. In your Publish portal, click Admin and then General Settings.
  2. Choose your provider from the pop-down menu with the three providers
  3. Enter your “analytics key.” That’s a short code you get from the provider when you set up your account with them. For Omniture, this is usually the name of the report suite that you set up for your app and can be found in SiteCatalyst.
  4. Click Save at the bottom of the page.
  5. If you’re using Omniture, there’s one more step: Under the Apps tab in Publish, then Live Settings, then Application Options, you’ll see a place to enter an Omniture tracking server—this is typically the same for all your company’s apps and sites and again, something you’ll get from your Omniture experts. It’s usually the s.trackingserver found in your s.code file.

mag+ works with Omniture SiteCatalyst 14 or 15. Because mag+ is built on a uniform app code base (which is what allows us to be so inexpensive), it’s not possible to add your own custom events to track. However, if there are things you’d like to capture that aren’t available now, we’re always open to exploring whether or not it’s something we can add to the code base.

What You Can Get

Before we get into the analytics providers, it’s important to know there is some data you can gather independent of these.
Publish:

  • Click on a published tablet issue under the Issues tab to see the total number of downloads for that issue
  • Under the Admin tab, you can see the total number of unique devices that have ever accessed the app

iTunes Connect:
Under the Sales and Trends section of your iTunes Connect account, you can find:

  • App Downloads (total and by country)
  • App updates (total and by country)
  • Purchases – both of subscriptions and single copies (total and by country)
  • The name, email and zip code of subscribers who have agreed to share data with you (downloadable weekly in a spreadsheet)
  • NOTE that iTunes doesn’t keep your data for very long – you can only go back a couple of months, so you might want to use a third-party tracking service like AppViz or AppFigures to store and visualize this data over time.

Web links
If you embed clickable links in your issue—say, a link to your home page, or to an advertiser’s Web site—those can be tracked like any other link on the Web. When the user clicks that link, it will open the in-app Web browser and go to that URL. If that URL is a redirect or a unique URL, your standard Web analytics tool can see how many hits that link got.

Analytics Providers

The built in analytics providers all capture similar sets of information but with slight differences and different dashboards. Omniture is probably the most powerful but also costs money (though your company may already have an account to track your Web sites). Of the free options, Flurry is better (though still not great) at tracking unique events like how far down a user read on a vertical; but Localytics has a really nice dashboard and provides average time spent per session as opposed to median, which is typically far lower, and also provides interesting extras like busiest time of day.

Here are the stats you can get:

Omniture:

  • Unique visitors (by time period and total)
  • Unique visits (or sessions) (by time period and total)
  • Page (vertical) views (by time period and total; by page and total)
  • Users by country
  • Average time spent per session
  • Average time spent per page (vertical)
  • Percent video watched
  • Flow through app
  • Return frequency and return visits

Flurry:

  • Sessions (or visits) (by region)
  • Total number of users (by time period and total)
  • New users
  • Median time spent per session
  • Total and median number of sessions per day/week/month
  • Lifecycle: number of users using the app once vs more than once
  • Users who visit the app more than once in seven days vs new users
  • Device, carrier and firmware used
  • Overlap visitors with other apps you’re tracking
  • Time spent per vertical (measured by individual session)*
  • Percent video watched (per vertical; measured by individual session)*
  • Percent vertical read (measured by individual session)*
  • Double-tap invoked (per vertical; measured by individual session)*

*These are downloaded in a spreadsheet and require some Excel magic to extract usable data

Localytics:

  • Sessions (or visits) (by time period, region, device, OS)
  • Total number of users (by time period and total)
  • Percent of sessions from new users
  • Median time spent per session
  • Average time spent per session
  • Time between sessions
  • Sessions by time of day (incl slowest and busiest hour)
  • Total and median number of sessions per day/week/month
  • User retention
  • OS version, device, app version, carrier

What else?

A couple of things we’re looking at on the dev side are whether we can reliably track interactions with HTML elements and whether Google Analytics might make a good fit as another free provider. If there are other things you’d like captured or other systems that look interesting, please let us know and we will investigate. We want to empower you to find out what you need to know to make your apps a wild success, so don’t hesitate to give us feedback on any of this or ask more questions in our Support forum.