Custom Dashboards in Metrics for News Solve the Problem of Bad Analytics
2021 Finalist

Custom Dashboards in Metrics for News Solve the Problem of Bad Analytics

American Press Institute

Arlington, United States

Category Data and Research

Overview of this campaign

Choosing an analytics tool for a newsroom is not just a technology change but a cultural one. 

All too often newsroom dashboards based on conventional web analytics are seen as leaderboards that glorify page views and beats that attract the biggest audiences. 


But bigger is not always better, and dashboards that focus heavily on page views are incomplete. They don’t account for newsrooms trying to build loyalty, trust or enhance the practice of online journalism. At API we built a solution — Metrics for News (MFN) — after publishers started asking us in 2014 for better ways to make choices about what stories to cover and how to cover them. 


Over the past six years our dashboards have evolved to do more things that many news analytics dashboards do not. MFN dashboards are unique because they were built to:

  • Simplify data by blending multiple important metrics into a single Engagement Score.


  • Democratize the data by creating Engagement Scores to measure different goals, such as acquiring new subscribers or engaging local readers. Those goals can be communicated through the dashboards by pinning relevant scores a newsroom values most. 


  • Customize dashboards for newsroom roles so reporters, editors and teams can see their own data trends automatically identified using AI and rule-based tagging. This allows the newsroom to study what works well in any kind of content, rather than just highlight top page-view performers overall. Dashboards are available by author, team, topic and audience segment.


  • Access funnel analytics to help newsrooms identify what drives engagement from a casual user to a paying customer. The “Path to Conversion” dashboard helps newsrooms see the topics and stories that led to new subscriptions and retained existing ones.


  • Enhance analysis across an entire company for corporations that own many publications or outlets and want to learn what drives engagement within each market and company-wide. These dashboards allow for client customization to account for different types of newsrooms, markets, goals and business models.

Results for this campaign

Metrics for News has driven impacts in newsrooms on multiple levels. It has helped publishers win more subscribers, change or experiment with content strategy, launch new products and foster a culture of using analytics to better serve their audiences. 

Among the may impacts:


  • A New York newsroom used MFN dashboards to identify what to stop doing with sports and entertainment coverage that required high effort but earned low engagement. They reshaped some beats, cut back on freelance work, and eliminated types of coverage that wasn’t resonating with readers, like music columns and high school scoreboards.

  • Topic-focused dashboards analyzing coverage of the pandemic helped news organizations understand and grow audience engagement on the new central topic of our time. The Cedar Rapids Gazette used MFN data to launch experiments with headline writing and other changes, including one that increased engagement with opinion coverage by 259 percent. Advocate Media discovered reader fatigue with coronavirus coverage and used MFN data to reverse the trend by branding its work around “Road to Recovery.” 

  • A Connecticut newsroom used their MFN data to give staff permission to swap frequency goals for more impactful reporting. They also used MFN data to identify topics earning high engagement that they could test newsletters in and offer subscriber-only events. Other changes included new processes for editing and story development based on MFN data. In 4 months, the newsroom saw a 36% growth in subscriptions.

  • A Chicago publisher created their own custom Engagment Score in MFN to better analyze stories that assisted to a conversion, helping the newsroom track topics and qualities that drive subscriptions, prompting them to change the education beat.
  • Many newsrooms use MFN to foster a culture of analytics. They integrate the data into routine meetings, staff newsletters and in 1:1 conversations with editors. This focus helps staff come to their dashboards with a plan. A science-focused publisher now uses MFN data in regular weekly meetings to help staff plan and develop stories with an audience focus.


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