Editorial analytics and the democratization of the newsroom

It’s not just the way news is being distributed that has evolved beyond recognition. The way we track progress and success in the digital publishing world has also seen a correlative shift, becoming more sophisticated with each day that passes. Any editor or journalist working in digital will be able to tell tales of woe involving the increasingly-maligned page view, and analytics have become an inescapable part of life in a newsroom, whatever its size.

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One of the fundamental problems with analytics is their availability and distribution within the organisation. Where analytics packages are sold per user, it’s not surprising to find that it isn’t the journalists who are predominately using these tools, but data analysts or those much higher up in the organisation. Those that could learn the most from the data are getting it second hand and only when someone else deems it necessary. Maybe analytics packages that use the ‘per-seat’ pricing model are considered too expensive to justify granting each editor and journalist their own access to the data available – these aren’t exactly the halcyon days of well-funded journalism, after all.

Content Insights authors
Content Insights was created for editors and journalists by the very same people

Here at Content Insights our approach is different. Our package was created for editors and journalists by the very same people. We didn’t create it for advertisers or even boardrooms, but for people who are plying their QWERTY trade on the factory floor.

Content marketing transferable skills journalismWhat is CPI and how can it help your content strategy?

We don’t use a per-seat pricing model because we believe that everyone in a news organisation should have access to data relating to work they’re producing. On the most basic and practical level, there is simply not enough time for managing editors to gather together all the data that analytic packages proffer, analyze it and distribute it across their teams. Drilling down into page views, time spent, average pages per session takes time, and few people know exactly what they’re looking for. More often than not, people making editorial decisions need key information relayed quickly – information that can be understood at any level without hassle. That’s what CPI (Content Insights’ unique key performance indicator, created by calculating the ratios between multiple metrics) was created to offer. If you’re overseeing a large news team, this sophisticated reading offers a comprehensive and useful measurement of success, one that you can understand in an instant.

Editors alone rarely have the time to get down into the finer details of all the data that’s available on each article and by each author across multiple analytics packages. Journalists, however, are increasingly keen to see how their work is being perceived, and providing they’re not being mesmerised by vanity metrics, that insight can really help them to hone their skills and increase their sense of job satisfaction. John Reichertz, Content Insights’ VP for Latin America, and someone who has spent his entire career in publishing, puts it simply: “If you work in a vacuum it’s demoralizing. Feedback is important.” If you create content that genuinely engages with your readership, and you have the tools to know when that content is working – and when it isn’t – then everyone’s a winner.

Having given data access to all journalists, around 1,300 at The Times and 900 at The Guardian are now using them

The Times and The Guardian, two publishing powerhouses who have recently adopted in-house analytics systems can attest to the take up of widespread analytics usage: having given the option to all journalists, around 1,300 at The Times and 900 at The Guardian are now using them. No doubt each journalist and editor has different questions to be asked of the data and need it for different reasons, but that can only be a good thing. A writer who is producing longform investigative articles is likely to be seeking different answers from their data than someone writing celebrity stories.

With access to easy-to-comprehend analytics, you can see – without even a peek at the wall boards that dominate modern newsrooms – which stories are drawing an engaged audience, where readers are dropping out of the article, and which distribution platforms are provoking genuine interaction. As a writer, you’re able to take those readings and have meaningful conversations with your editors, who can in turn can be reassured that feedback from articles is getting straight to journalists.

“The most successful newsrooms are the ones that talk a lot together, and having good information and data at your fingertips makes those conversations particularly productive.”

John Reichertz hits the nail on the head again: “The best way to get this data culture flowing through the newsroom is to get everybody involved and nurture an atmosphere where either a journalist goes to his boss and says, ‘Hey, I found this, it’s really strange and I can’t figure it out’, or, ‘Hey! Have you seen this story? It’s doing really well!’ or, ‘I’m doing really well on engagement and loyalty, but not on exposure: you’re putting me in this below-the-line section and maybe you should move this story to more prominent space.’ I think everyone in the industry would agree that the most successful newsrooms are the ones that talk a lot together, and having good information and data at your fingertips makes those conversations particularly productive.”

The final point worth remembering is this: if journalists don’t engage in this stage, while analytics are still in their infancy, the direction of its development will continue to be steered by advertisers. Analytics aren’t going anywhere. As we increasingly feel the pinch of revenue streams, analytics will increasingly be the tiller with which editors navigate strategy and how the boardroom decides to operate the bottom line.

We have the power to act on our information in the best way we know how, by using our training, our instincts and our skills to write better articles, to interact with our colleagues more productively and to shape the future of our publications. What better way to facilitate these kind of important discussions than by having everyone on the same page with access to the same data?

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