Self-driven learning options for the data curious are plentiful

By Ariane Bernard

INMA

New York, Paris

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If you are interested in checking out some of options for self-driven analytics training as a data-curious person, let me tell you … there are options.

I asked a few people what they recommended for folks who were number-literate but not data experts. Like a marketer or a social media editor. One suggestion I heard from several people was to take training directly from Google, though this, of course, is going to be relevant to folks who work in organisations that use Google Analytics in the first place.

Data training options are plentiful, including the Google Analytics Academy and Udemy.
Data training options are plentiful, including the Google Analytics Academy and Udemy.

You have options from big online platforms like Udemy, and one data analyst told me she sometimes looked at them for fun (!!) because they were heavy on practical tips in a way that the more industrial training you could find from the Googles of the world just weren’t focused on. 

Now, I am not linking to any specific course because there are a million of them, and you may prefer courses that are very practical, while other courses are much more about concepts and a broad overview. But there are really a lot of different options for you. And then, you can take some significantly more expanded course from Google on analytics (including a certificate-granting programme) via Coursera — no prerequisite required.

This type of programme isn’t specific to our use cases of media, but here’s the thing: Analytics skills are fairly non-industry specifics. You know how folks who work on the editorial side of your company usually come from news-related fields or other newsrooms? If you ask analysts at your company what their previous employment has been, you’re likely to hear that folks have done stints at health-care companies, banks, or automakers.

This tells you something: Analytics is a fairly context-agnostic field, and knowledge you gain there is going to be useful in a range of contexts and industries. So I would certainly suggest that you look into general analytics coursework if you want to deepen your expertise. 

Alternatively to fully online courses, there are options with organisations like General Assembly and probably other similar organisations near where you are based (INMA’s members are hailing from all over the world, so it’s difficult to dig deeply into who may be offering something relevant near you. Please accept my apologies). But online courses present some of the most flexible options and, with the abundant number of courses that offer video training, it’s also not as much a pure textbook affair as it used to be.

I come from product, where you kind of have to know a lil’ bit about everything. But you also have to be clear on the fact that your commitment to knowing a lil’ bit also ends at actual full-scale expertise. A generalist product manager isn’t the person to go to for advanced analysis on your Web site or who will come up with the specifics of how your tagging plan will be implemented. But can this person pull their own simple numbers, understand how they were measured and what they mean? They should be able to do this for themselves.

A news editor isn’t the social media editor. They do not need to know how to break down their social acquisition funnel six ways from Sunday. But can they take a URL and throw it in an audience analytics platform and pull some basic numbers for how the article performed and understand enough statistics to be able to contextualise these numbers?

I think the goal is that all news people can eventually do this, yes. 

Different teams need to know different levels of data specifics.
Different teams need to know different levels of data specifics.

There are some truly outstanding deep dives that exist on the Internet but usually for some more specific angles on analytics or data. The big basic building blocks aren’t really blog posts territory. But, a more structured course of study — even a short course — will fill in the blanks for the kind of questions you may never otherwise ask. If you are a social media manager, a product manager, and generally a “numbers-minded” editor, a course on analytics is pretty foundational. 

So now, should this type of training be offered by your news organisation? I would say yes, and in fact, many organisations do offer training for non-data roles — often tied to their specific implementations of some common analytics tools or their own custom tools if they have any.

Media companies like Gannett, Schibsted, The Times (UK), and NZZ in Switzerland are all examples of organisations that have long built out more academic training for folks around the organisation to level up. And some organisations also add to this training by teaching more general analysis skills like how to become a spreadsheet power-user (as a self-identifying spreadsheet fan, this made me extremely happy).

But while large media organisations have both the resources and in-house expertise to provide this type of enrichment, I would absolutely encourage folks who don’t have access to substantial training “at home’” to look to these Internet resources. While they are not stamped with the uses cases of media, they will feel very relevant.

In fact, even for folks who hail from larger organisations with training programmes, following an online course has one big advantage: Such training is generalist in nature and it can be a great complement to the more focused training provided in-house. If your organisation happens to offer some form of reimbursement for continued education, perhaps this is also covered. And if you worry that your manager may not be convinced that acquiring these skills would be relevant to your current job, I hope this blog post can help you make the case.

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About Ariane Bernard

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