Accurate reader data is key to editorial success for Philadelphia Inquirer

By Hans-Dieter Gärtner

The Philadelphia Inquirer has become a platform for engaging the community at the highest level. Its challenge is to provide engaging content for its audience.

“We are the basis of conversation and debate,” says Inquirer Editor Stan Wischnowski.

In 2011, the news media company launched a series called “Assault On Learning” about the safety of its local public school environment. Before launch, staff utilised audience panel information to gather valuable insights and opinions from readers.

This type of feedback helped The Philadelphia Inquirer shape its coverage on a serious topic that clearly resonated in and around the city of Philadelphia.

At RAM (Research and Analysis of Media), we offer the following advice for editorial departments embarking on such projects:

  1. Study reader interests in content.

  2. Determine reader engagement with features.

  3. Evaluate effective use of resources.

  4. Provide immediate feedback to journalists.

  5. Look at engagement with specific target groups.

  6. Plan for the coverage of upcoming events.

  7. Examine the power of a well-written headline in relation to article readership.

  8. Add relevant questions to standard article measurements through ad hoc.

  9. Study the readership of news content across multiple channels.

  10. Evaluate page and section design.

Such insight is so interesting to me.

From the first time I heard about RAM, I was fascinated by the speed and stability of what such data had to offer. The system has been developed to meet the news media’s need for surveys and market research and is primarily based on standardised questionnaires, which subscribing media can order online.

The surveys are automatically sent to media-specific panels via e-mail, and the results are stored in a dynamic reference database. Such data provides a critical link between the media and its audience.

The Philadelphia Inquirer was awarded the 2012 Pulitzer Prize Winner for Public Service based on its contributions through the “Assault On Learning” series. Reports from the RAM audience panel provided valuable insight to the content and direction of the editorial series and the resulting award.

About Hans-Dieter Gärtner

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