Becoming a completely digital media company is a slow burn for Público, but the company is in it for the long haul.
Having started its digital transformation in 2015, Público knows the importance of getting buy-in from the different teams in the newsroom, according to Elisabeth Fernandes, head of analytics and audience insight. The analytics team developed both immediate and long-term goals around using data to increase engagement. Público, a tabloid based in Lisbon, was one of the first mainstream Portuguese newspapers to start an online edition in the mid-1990s.
“The goal was to face the daily needs and the daily questions of all the teams and to explore and integrate the data to deliver manual reports,” Fernandes said. “In the long term, the goal was to work in the data vision, develop the data-driven culture, and build automatic reports.”
Using analytics to drive results
Another long-term goal, Fernandes said, is to build a strong analytics department to deliver information to its teams. “We had a lot of conversations with the editorial teams, subscriptions department, and the analytics [department] to understand what they want from the data,” Fernandes said.
They listed all the questions each department posed and delivered actionable information for each person and each department. They then worked with IT to figure out how to best collect more data.
“We looked at our data and decided which internal and external data sources we needed to integrate and to improve our data to build the first automatic report,” Fernandes said.
Once the reports started coming in, the analytics team had to loop in all the different departments to show what they learned, she said: “It’s really important to communicate and to help the people understand what to do with those KPIs.”
They started with more meetings and focus groups as well as daily, weekly, and monthly newsletters to team members. “We explain what happened, what could be done, the things that went good or not good,” Fernandes said.
The analytics team also made colourful graphs and charts and put jokes in the newsletters to make sure colleagues engaged with them and, more importantly, improved their decision-making as a result. Once teams learned the basics, Público kept evolving and enhancing its strategy as company objectives changed.
Focusing on readers
In 2019, Público began focusing more on who its readers are and how to better talk to those readers. “We deliver content by groups, like the main hours, the main content that this kind of reader likes to read, which day of the week,” Fernandes said. “All this information was really useful to change the mindset of the newsroom and all the sections of the newspaper.”
As KPIs changed, Público also changed its automatic reports to include information that would help improve engagement, acquire more readers, and achieve other goals. “The most important thing is value,” Fernandes said. “To deliver valuable information to the teams could be useful to improve the results and to optimise the experience for our readers.”
Público has found that a centralised Web page to which all the teams can access works best to see all the data coming in. It comes in the form of historical data, real-time data, and data that is helpful in predicting the future. This way, each team — like the distribution team, for example — can work with the analytics team to best serve the reader.
“We work with them to improve the SEO strategy, the strategy for newsletters, the strategy for notifications, always to shift the maximum reach and engagement by channel,” Fernandes said.
Two years ago, Público also started focusing on engagement instead of pageviews as part of the push for value and using great journalism as the best acquisition strategy. While it has made a lot of headway in its journey to provide great data and analytics, it is experiencing the same challenges faced by many other media companies.
“It is quite hard to find in the market people who want to work in a newsroom and analyse data in a specific industry,” Fernandes said. “We have partnerships with universities to improve and develop machine learning models because it is very hard to hire more people with analytical skills.”
The evolution at Público won’t ever stop between journalism, tech, and data, Fernandes said: “We will always work to help journalists and editorial teams to achieve their goals.”
This case study originally appeared in the INMA report, The Benefits and Risks of Media Data Democratisation.