No hard answers given in Analytics in the Newsroom: What’s Next

#analytics4news Panel:
USC Annenberg – @danachinn @mcunningham8 @mediametrics
New York Times – @JamesGRobinson
Google – @siebergd

So when I went to this panel, i was under the impression that I would get a concrete answer… the holy grail so to speak of analytics, which is the answer to the question, if Pageviews and Unique Visitors are the “blunt instruments” we use to analyze the performance on our digital platforms, what are the more refined tools we should be using instead?

The answer is “it depends.”
The real question is, what is it you want to do? What is it you’re trying to accomplish?

Many media organizations are using metrics that are “evil,” says @danachinn
Why are they bad? Why do they do harm?
Pageviews, unique visitors and time on site are based on old mass media.
They are punitive, demoralizing metrics, they don’t help you as a journalist, she argues.

So whenever looking at metrics, always ask ‘So what?’ And the answer to any metrics question is usually “it depends” says @danachinn.

Metrics may give you an answer, but what is the question? What is the audience you want to attract? What can you learn from your audience to build better relationships?

The newspaper pay model is based on developing relationships with those readers. More than just numbers in the audience analytics, what is the qualitative analytics? These are segments of people we can learn from by talking to them directly.

You can’t roll up all the social metrics into one number, they argue.

So before you start an article, start a project, launch anything, state your objective. What is it you’re trying to do with this piece? Change opinions? Grow awareness? How will you measure that?

Measuring engagement is also tricky. The problem is trying to boil it down to a single number, whether that’s the number of returning visitors, etc.

Engagement is a state of mind, argues New York Times’ analytics pro, @JamesGRobinson. It’s like measuring how much I love my wife by how many flowers I buy here each week, he says.

If you’re a small organization, ask yourself, what is the basic ways to measure how the business works?

At MTV Networks they measured engagement by screens, says @mcunningham8. The more screens they watched a show on or more screens they’re talking about your show, the more engaged they are, but sometimes, the shows don’t lend themselves to that. Celeb Rehab, for instance, was not a show that people shared socially, because it was like making fun of people’s illnesses/struggles.

One thing you can do immediately, is to sit down with the journalists in your newsroom and explain what the analytics mean.
Get them to care, maybe analyze two pieces they’ve done.. which one got more time spent, which one had more referral traffic, etc. and why. Was the headline better written? Was there a social component? Journalists need to understand the numbers beyond pageviews and unique visitors.

–Kim Nguyen, 7NEWS

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