Know the frame of reference of the top baselines of your analytics tool

By Ariane Bernard


New York, Paris


Let’s talk about referentials.

In analytics tools, they often fall along these lines:

  • A baseline.

  • Trend lines.

  • Averages or moving means.

  • A range.

And baseline isn’t itself a clear referential. In data, the word “baseline” doesn’t mean a fixed, static piece of statistic. Baseline designates a value that the designers of the data framework feel “means” something that speaks to normal operations and performance. This can be a direct value or a computed value.

So, for one product, baseline may be the mean. For another, baseline may mean absolute deviation. For another still, it may be the median absolute deviation.

Whatever it is for a given product, it’s rare that the referential does not contain some sort of inherent gotcha. 

If I take some of the more popular content analytics tools you’ll find at media publishers, one of the top baselines is going to be an average of the same day of the week over the past N weeks. So some of the key takeaways of your dashboard will speak to your performance being higher or lower than [a standard Tuesday]. 

Baseline metrics vary by type of publication. Know which makes sense for yours.
Baseline metrics vary by type of publication. Know which makes sense for yours.

Who should really think about the adequacy of this baseline?

  • Smaller publishers with uneven publishing volumes or … slower publishers, by which I mean non-news publishers — magazines, in particular. What does a day of the week mean to you as a stable referential?

  • Organisations with less consistent publishing schedules.

  • Any publisher where the social promotion calendar isn’t particularly standardised because, if anything, your promotion will have more impact on distribution than just the act of publishing.

For any organisation where publishing and/or promotion of your content isn’t at a high enough consistent volume week-on-week to smooth out variance or for organisations where there is flexibility in how much is published or promoted  when …  the notion that [day of the week] is a consistent sample is actually not particularly helpful. 

In the general world of news, that’s a meaningful unit of time to baseline. We all recognise there is more news in the world at 10:00 a.m. on a Monday than at 7:00 p.m. on a Friday. But is that something your organisation is actually pegged against?

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About Ariane Bernard

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