The Independent’s “engagement score” guides its content strategy

By Peter Bale


New Zealand and the U.K.


It can be difficult to know how to apply lessons from other newsrooms to your work. It is also all too easy for newsroom leaders to tell themselves that what works in a bigger or smaller market or a different culture may not be applicable to them.

That slightly passive-aggressive or “it won’t work here” approach is surely a critical cultural reason why some innovations fail or never get started.

In the last newsletter, I offered two examples of what I think are replicable best practice exercises that have yielded gains for the organisations which came up with them – the Financial Times and News Corp Australia.

Here’s another example, this time from The Independent.

The Independent in London was one of the first newspapers I know of to grapple boldly with a crunch many publishers are only starting to truly tackle: the terminal decline of printed newspapers. The Independent bit a very large bullet in 2016 and ceased printing.

It faced a financial crisis but has determinedly gone digital and says it is now profitable and hiring rapidly with a big U.S. expansion underway. Christian Broughton, now its chief executive officer who literally rose from the mail room to editor-in-chief and now CEO, talked about that transition in a remarkable session in a Newsroom Initiative master class.

I pulled out some of what I think are applicable lessons for others. Like the Financial Times Quality Reads metric we wrote about last week, The Independent adopted a powerful newsroom metric which drove both editorial motivations and business needs.

It created an “engagement score” using what it called APV: active days, premium article mix, and volume. You can see easily how that might feed the objective of increasing reader loyalty, serving them content that adds up to subscription objectives, while also serving advertisers.

What are your North Star metrics? Write to me about your policies, please or come on the INMA Newsroom Initiative Slack channel and let’s talk about it.

If you’d like to subscribe to my bi-weekly newsletter, INMA members can do so here.

About Peter Bale

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