News organization everywhere are competing for attention. In a continuously changing media environment, journalism is challenged more than ever before to connect to its audience. In its report, the Digital News Project 2016, Reuters Institute examined how news organizations, across Europe and the United States, analyze their audience’s behavior in order to inform and develop their editorial voices.
The Guardian and The Financial Times, both subscription-based business models, developed proprietary metric tools. The Guardian’s real-time analytics tool called Orphan offers minute-by-minute data on individual articles like pageviews, social shares, and attention-time for each article published in the last two weeks. Orphan can also show whether the article has been pushed via the Guardian’s social media channels and/or if it was promoted on the homepage. The data can also be broken down by different segments, such as time, section, device, browser, country, referrer, loyalty, and attention time. The editors can use this data to inform decisions on headlines, pictures, placement, and how to promote across social media channels.
Similarly, the Financial Times’s is developing a dashboard for its analytics called, Lantern. The Financial Times see editorial analytics as a step to its newsroom and its reporters being audience-first journalists, integrating engagement objectives into the editorial process. The tool will focus mostly on engagement-related metrics such as time spent, recirculation, volume of articles read per visit, and number of comments.
The report identified a few third party analytic tools available to news organization:
- Chartbeat known for real-time analytics that focus on audience attention. Its dashboard advices on homepage structure and helps to refine headlines and formats. Editors can modify content in real-time.
- Ly tracks in real-time as well and helps to identify topics audiences have responded well to in the past as well as where readers are coming from, where they’re headed next and on what devices.
- NewsWhip is also a real-time tool that offers social media tracking like tweets, shares, and comments. It also allows newsrooms to monitor what stories are trending and breaking news.
In addition to Chartbeat, Parse.Ly and NewsWhip, the more standardized report of pageviews and visits are available in analytics tools like Omniture, google Analytics, Facebook Insights, and twitter Analytic.
Usage of multiple data sources is also common among news organizations. The Huffington Post, an advertising based business model, uses an Omniture dashboard, which includes traditional metrics like visits, pageviews, and unique visitors as well as referrals from specific sources and video data. They also use a customized version of Chartbeat tracking real-time split testing where different versions of an article (copy, headline and/or pictures) are tested to see which performs best.
Importantly, even in the most data-driven analysis, decisions often involve qualitative assessment. It’s a mix of art and science. It’s also important to ensure personal assessment is included especially in terms of how the data is leveraged for both short-term and long-term operations.