CAMP 2017: Using metrics to magnify your journalism

Story by Lisa Thomson, 2017 JAWS Fellow | Photo by Andrea Crowley-Hughes, JAWS Communication Manager

Speakers from the American Press Institute offered insight into the purpose and value of media analytics, along with a few platform suggestions, at the Journalism and Women Symposium’s annual conference on Sunday, Oct. 29. The “Metrics to Magnify Your Journalism” panel was led by Liz Worthington (director of content strategy), Amy Kovac-Ashley (senior newsroom learning program manager) and Katie Kutsko (assistant program manager).

Aware that oftentimes journalists might have a tendency to dismiss metrics, Kovac-Ashley said, “metrics are not an end-all, be-all. They are a tool to actually help you engage with your audiences.” During the presentation, Kovac-Ashley and her colleagues stressed the importance of focusing on finding metrics that align with your organization’s core mission, rather than just page views, page views and more page views.

Before telling us which metrics can be helpful, Kovac-Ashley started off by showing us a John Oliver clip to highlight how not to use metrics:

What not to be: Journalism: Last Week Tonight – John Oliver

Kovac-Ashley stressed that each organization should be having an existential conversation about what it cares about and, from that, find the metrics that best align with their goals. These metrics can then be used by newsrooms to help figure out what news and information is most important to the communities they serve, and how better to deliver that material.

Liz Worthington went on to point out that these days more and more organizations are using metrics as a way to explore new subscription models and to tailor subscription options to different demographics.

“Journalism is moving away from advertising only, and is moving more towards subscribers,” said Worthington. She explained that we’re seeing a move away from one-size-fits-all subscriptions and toward different levels of access options based on different types of reader habits.

Katie Kutsko offered an overview of a few of the tools available to newsrooms.

Google Analytics: This free tool focuses heavily on pageviews and doesn’t provide much historical data, but it does integrate with other Google products and provide useful basic information.

Adobe Analytics (formerly Omniture) : This is a complex and expensive option that’s usually found in large organizations. It can provide information to help build audience profiles so you can target specific groups.

Chartbeat: This option is probably one of the most popular in newsrooms and provides good day-to-day analytics that offer insight into real-time site use as well as a look at how users found their way to the site. This service offers a blend of real-time and historical data and gives insight into engagement times, social shares and audience loyalty.

Social Analytics: Facebook insights, Crowd Tangle and Twitter Analytics are all free sources of insight into social metrics.

Piano – This tool is particularly useful for tracking a user’s journey to your content, and can be used to help develop paywall meters.

American Press Institute recently debuted Better News, a free platform that offers information on digital best practices, and API’s content analysis software Metrics for News is available for a licensing fee.

For freelancers and those without access to the above tools, the women from API suggest simple hacks like starting a group Slack channel to workshop headlines. Even as a freelancer, you should ask for access to metrics for the stories you work on, they suggested.

“Just asking can sometimes lead to a lot,” Worthington said.