Understanding audience and metrics

Audience and metrics talk was not at all what I expected in the “Elements” chapter about keeping the news comprehensive and proportional, but I’m so glad it was in there.

Sure, there are some people who still haven’t jumped on the metrics train, but I think that’s silly; having this kind of information at our disposal can be incredibly valuable in enhancing coverage and the overall user experience — if the information is used correctly. I would argue that understanding metrics, and how they can best be used, is an ongoing process for all. As with any data set, there are a lot of ways that analytics data can be skewed and presented out of context. And as the book mentions, it’s a huge struggle for many to figure out how to prioritize the different items measured: Should time on page reign over number of pages viewed? How much does it matter where our audience is from? Where do social media analytics fit in? As I brought up in class this past week, this is where I think the American Press Institute’s Metrics for News tool could be an interesting game-changer. It strives to provide easy-to-understand context to these data points and help news organizations create stronger content creation strategies.

I agree with Kovach and Rosenstiel that understanding how and why audiences consume news is huge when it comes to thinking about your product and strategy. For example, if we know a lot about when people read the news (e.g., at the breakfast table, on the train, when bored in line), then we can design better user experiences to make news consumption easier and more convenient for them. We could also channel this into distribution methods — for example, maybe stories that are longer could be published/pushed out in the evening, if people spent more time reading the news then.

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