Metrics, KPIs, north stars. They all exist for one purpose: To help your reporters deliver better journalism. Better as in more appropriate for the readers. Better as in encouraging higher engagement. Creating a deeper loyalty. Satisfying audiences’ needs.
Very few staff in a modern newsroom have objections to listening to consumer data. Most reporters want their work to be read, and they want their reporting to make a difference for readers and society. They want to create change. Hopefully most of them also want their daily efforts behind the keyboard to contribute to the success of their employer, which must strengthen reader revenue to ensure the survival of news distribution in the long run.
Yet, it sometimes seems a bit hard to get the data-informed workflow to be successful in every corner of the newsroom. As a newsroom leader, you can always do your best to get it right by setting up weekly or monthly evaluation talks and feeding automated reports by e-mail or using Slack-bots for reporters, for example. Still, getting in touch with audience data needs to be natural — nothing extra, nothing on the side, no obstacles. You need to get rid of the thresholds and get your reporters close to the data to get them to use it in their daily work.
At NTM, a Swedish media conglomerate consisting of 18 regional news titles, we took on this challenge. In spring 2020, we launched new Web sites and apps. At the same time, our journalists got a new reporter tool called 360. It was super easy to use and everything was in one place to handle daily production.
Yet, one piece was missing. We had been using a vendor’s tool for audience insights. It was Web-based with a need to log in and choose among several dashboards. Everyone created their own versions over time, and it was a bit messy.
We decided to make a change and make it easier to access, so we developed a new insights tool, which was integrated into 360. The reporter can choose any given time period in a calendar. Then, the tool shows these metrics aggregated for that period:
- Number of articles published.
- Number of pageviews from subscribers.
- Number of conversions.
- Spent time.
- Number of finished articles (all articles read to 80%).
- Share of total published articles that were finished.
We also display in a list the outcome of all articles one-by-one for the chosen time period, with the possibility to sort the list by the different KPIs. If a reporter wants to quickly see the articles sorted in ranking by what subscribers have spent the most (or least) time with, that’s easy. In the next second, they can sort the list by conversions in the same way.
It’s also possible to see your colleagues’ outcomes. And, editors can choose multiple reporters to see the aggregated outcome of team members. It is fully transparent.
A great advantage of having the dashboard integrated in the reporter tool is that you can click an article in the dashboard listing to open the article in the reporter tool to change text, headlines, or pictures. You can also easily click to open the article on the Web site to see how it appeared.
I think the greatest strength of the solution is that there are no extra login credentials and no thresholds to data when reporters find it in the same place as they write and edit their daily work.
One month after the release of this tool, we have gotten a lot of positive response on the implementation from reporters and editors. It seems we have managed to get information about audience behaviour close to our reporters. The next step for us will be to get more data on the number of activated unique subscribers and video watching into the dashboard.