For publishers, being able to write relatable, hot-topic content is somewhat of a Holy Grail. Here at TNW we have a staff of 11 (at present) full-time writers. I can tell you the beats that they cover, but I can’t always tell you exactly how well a story has done because most analytics platforms don’t handle that sort of granular information very well. Enter Dash, from Parse.ly, and it’s problem solved.

The company is 2 years old, based in NYC. With a team of 7 Parse.ly has spent the past 24 months working with publishers to find pain points. According to CTO Andrew Montalenti, “there is a big hole in the tools that publishers use to understand their editors.” It’s with that in mind that Dash was born.

Dash is a product that sits in the background on a website, gathering analytics-style data which can then be viewed to its most granular point. Have we written about rumors of the iPad 3 on TNW? I could search Google to find out, but Dash can tell me who wrote what, how well it did, where the traffic came from and much more with a single search query.

But let’s take a step back and look at Dash from its homepage:

Screen Shot 2012 01 24 at 8.24.26 AM Dash is analytics built specifically for publishers

From here I can get an at-a-glance overview of what posts and topics are doing well on my site at any given time. Across the top I can choose to break down results by any number of factors, including Posts, Topics, Authors and Trends. Scrolling down the page I’ll see what’s presently popular across social networks and topic trends from the past 5 days.

Now let’s talk about potential problems — Any time that you’re given this sort of information, it can lead to publishers hyper-focusing on specific trends and over-saturation. It’s directly up to publishers to not participate in bad behavior and to use Dash as a tool rather than a complete guide.

That said, the ability of Dash to look at trending topics across both the Web and your own site is huge. For instance, if there’s a topic that fits the scope of your site’s coverage, you can then drill down to see which of your writers has performed best on that sort of coverage before. Here, for instance, we can see coverage of ACTA versus SOPA as it relates to the trial of The Pirate Bay, including percentage increases for each subject:

Screen Shot 2012 01 24 at 8.45.11 AM Dash is analytics built specifically for publishers

Of course, information like this doesn’t come for free. Dash will run $500/month for publishers on the Track plan. That gives you 10 users, 150 posts per week and 6 months of data retention. Plans with higher users and posts are available, but are priced on a case by case basis. It might seem steep, but it’s likely worth the cash if you’re a site that is relying on traffic for revenue.

We’ve been beta testing Dash for the past few months here at TNW and overall have been very happy with the product, with only a couple of minor gripes. One of those gripes is that we’d like to have the ability to assign specific people to oversee specific authors, without accessing the rest of the data. The Parse.ly team tells me that the feature is coming “down the road”, as they work to customize Dash for specific customers.

The only real difficulty with Dash is in training yourself how to use the data that it provides. It’s exceptionally tempting to look at worldwide, growing trends and to just toss content into the mix, but it’s ultimately not the best move for long-tail content. You really have to approach Dash as a tool, rather than a guide.

During the beta, the Parse.ly platform was tracking 700 million monthly page views  across all of its publishers. We never noticed any slowdown, so it appears that the team has done its homework when it comes to scaling the product.

Dash is not without competition in the space, though that seems to be down to only a couple of names. Typical analytics tools, like Clicky or Google Analtyics, can provide some of the insight that you’ll get from Dash. NewsCurve, however (as we wrote here) “would immediately be of tremendous asset on any publisher’s website”. But with $2 million in the bank and a lean, focused team, Dash won our hearts at TNW.

Dash, from Parse.ly