What key metrics should newsrooms be watching?

By Amalie Nash


Denver, Colorado, United States


There’s no right or wrong answer to this question, but I thought it would be helpful to provide a standard set of metrics newsrooms should consider. They depend, of course, on your business model.

Metrics for subscription-led news businesses

  • Total subscriber count: If your business model depends on subscriptions, clearly you need to watch those top-line numbers closely.

  • Active subscriber count: How many people visited your site during a specified engagement period? This is an important predictor of churn.

  • ARPU (average revenue per user) or total subscription revenue: This is important to track so you can understand how tactics to increase volume — such as deep discounting — are impacting revenue.

  • Data on content conversion: This metric depends on your organisation and attribution model you choose, but it’s good to know how effective your content strategy is.

  • Paywall stop rate and visibility rate: Again, this depends on your model.

Metrics for audience-led news businesses

  • Pageviews: There’s no clearer unit of currency to see whether you’re growing volume and providing programmatic inventory.

  • Traffic by source: How beholden are you to Google Discover vs. owning your own first-party audience? It’s important to note where your readership comes from to cultivate loyalty.

  • Visit depth: How much content people are viewing on a visit?

  • Return frequency: How often do they return? This is an important indicator of mid-funnel loyalty.

  • Direct traffic (% and total): Owning your own audience is an important insulator against algorithm changes.

  • RPM by source: What’s the value of a pageview depending on traffic source? It varies greatly and will impact your content strategy — important to monitor with cookie deprecation coming.

Results from a recent INMA un-Webinar audience survey about the top metric they monitor.
Results from a recent INMA un-Webinar audience survey about the top metric they monitor.

During a recent INMA Newsroom Transformation Initiative un-Webinar, we surveyed the audience on the top metric they monitor. The results showed:

  • Digital subscribers, 36%.

  • Return frequency, 21%.

  • Pageviews, 15%.

  • Time spent, 8%.

Finally, metrics are being used to track gender in reporting

Another interesting takeaway from the un-Webinar: Several publications are tracking gender breakdown in sourcing, leading to better representation in stories. At Politiken, NTM and Amedia, their metrics dashboards pay attention to the gender of sources used in stories. 

Jens Pettersson, NTM’s head of editorial development, said the goal is 50/50 representation in stories, which NTM sees as both the right thing to do for society and a business imperative to attract more female readers. The system uses names to determine the likely gender of the source being used.

“We track every article and follow it daily and monthly,” he said.

Troels Behrendt Jørgensen, Politiken’s digital director, said his publication began tracking gender in stories about four years ago. At that time, women made up only about 19% of sources. On the day before the un-Webinar, women made up 50% of sources — the first day he can remember the number being that high.

“We look at who we are writing about, and we’re making progress,” he said.

Markus Rask Jensen, news director at Amedia Produkt og Teknologi AS, said the data there shows women made up 31% of sources in the last 30 days, a clear indicator of the need for improvement.

Audience members asked whether the publications are tracking gender in image use, too, and none are at this time — but would like to be able to do so.

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About Amalie Nash

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