News UK adopts dashboard to put data at the centre of decision-making

By Will Sach

News UK

London, United Kingdom


Publishers have long focused on reach and revenue to understand business performance, but there is a  growing awareness in the industry that these metrics don’t always provide the whole picture.

As the well-known saying by Peter Drucker goes, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” 

It’s not what you need to measure, it’s who — your customers! And more importantly, how are you connecting with them? How can this impact be measured and linked to your overall business performance?

News UK is home to a raft of multi-media brands, including The Sun, The Times & The Sunday Times, talkSPORT, Virgin Radio, and TalkTV, which together reach almost 40 million people.

Our focus on performance is part of a set of values which puts data and technology at the heart of our business and decision-making. As our business continues to evolve, so does our approach to measuring growth and understanding how to become more responsive to the needs of our readers and customers.

Looking at new KPIs and metrics

This starts by measuring key customer metrics or leading performance measures and linking them to your financial and operational-based metrics.

The difference between lagging and leading indicators.
The difference between lagging and leading indicators.

Why do we need both? How we impact our customers directly links to our ability to grow our business.

Traditionally, when leaders analyse the performance of their team, they review whether their numbers are up or down, enabling them to respond in one of two ways: Either they can applaud their team or tell the team to work harder or sell more products. The one thing they can’t pinpoint quickly is what is driving the increase or decrease in performance, as they are only looking at financial or volume-based metrics.

So, by complementing these metrics with new customer metrics, publishers begin to unravel the impact of their actions on their customers. At News UK, we supplement reach, advertising, and subscription revenues (lagging metrics) with newer metrics like article dwell time, average session length, and customer effort score (leading metrics).

This balance of KPIs shows the leading causes of shifts in performance, rather than outcomes of activities that have already occurred. More importantly, leading metrics introduce predictive measures of future performance that will allow for a swift course correction as and when required.

A layered KPIs and metrics framework.
A layered KPIs and metrics framework.

Changing our measurement approach 

We worked closely with key business stakeholders from each division to devise a holistic KPIs and metrics framework, a playbook, and a business and customer KPI dashboard. Together, they have allowed the newsroom, commercial, and marketing teams to understand that the way we are impacting our readers disproportionately impacts the performance of our business.

It allows us to ask better questions on how we can dial-up performance. For example, if something isn’t working for a customer, we can focus on fixing a customer problem rather than a reach or revenue problem. We now have a clear pathway from insight to action.

In the case of dwell time, average session length, or customer effort score, what we are unravelling is how engaging our digital product is, both in content and user experience.

To interpret these customer metrics in a more meaningful way, we can assign important thresholds on when to take action, how quickly, and the scale of our response.

The KPI threshold guide allows News UK to decide on when to take action, how quickly, and the scale of its response.
The KPI threshold guide allows News UK to decide on when to take action, how quickly, and the scale of its response.

A better option

The new Sun Business and Customer KPI Dashboard not only allow us to measure and visualise performance holistically, but crucially acts as a scorecard that allows stakeholders to identify changes over time. It serves as a new diagnostic tool which facilitates actionable insights.

We recognise that not all content is created equal and performs different functions for different types of readers and their needs. Additional engagement metrics are now being brought into the newsroom to supplement existing ones to understand content engagement better and create a more balanced view of volume versus value.

Overall, this has transformed our ability to respond to the needs of our readers and consumers more proactively, ultimately improving their experience and our ability to serve them as effectively and efficiently as possible. Testament to this is the fact the new framework and dashboard have also been adopted by wider teams, such as finance and innovation. 

By marrying existing lagging indicators of business performance with new leading customer indicators, we can be insight-led and make better proactive decisions while becoming a more customer-centric organisation for our readers.

About Will Sach

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