industrydivewebinar

Emphasizing Internal Data Literacy and External Feedback, Industry Dive Finds Right Metrics Formula

“We are trying to build a culture of data analytics in our newsroom, and we want to bring a balance to that culture,” said Davide Savenije, editor in chief of always-growing Industry Dive. “Data is powerful. And it can tell us a lot, but as there are also limits and blind spots in the data, so context is always critical to knowing what data really tells you.”

With 80-plus journalists working on 20-plus online trade publications—and every indication that these numbers will only go up—Industry Dive may provide as good an example of any for how media companies are using metrics and analytics to grow. At a recent AM&P Network webinar, Savenije joined three other industry publishing decision-makers to give data its due but also to highlight the value of some type of “feedback loop” to fill in gaps where metrics may fall short.

“We want to empower our people in the newsroom and train them on how to be literate in interpreting the data and in digital media,” Savenije said. “We have a lot of ways to gather information about our audiences, whether it’s clicks and opens, time spent [on page], where people came from and how they got here, how loyal they are. We’ve arguably never had more ways to measure things.

“But metrics often [yield] very one-dimensional results that are affected by many factors, and there are blind spots in the data. So for us, it’s all about knowing what our goals are and how we can measure them in such a way that they can impact strategy, the decisions we make, and the behavior within our newsroom.”

Savenije noted that it’s easy to get caught up in the clicks and opens we all covet. So instead, they try to ask more pertinent questions. “What is the value of a story? What is the importance of our coverage to our audience? And how does our overall audience view us vs. our competitors? These aren’t easy to answer with traditional out-of-the-box analytics.”

Here’s more of Industry Dive’s successful recipe:

Start with your goals. “We want to use the analytics that we have to build feedback loops for our editorial team that help them make better decisions,” Savenije said. “And it has to be aligned with what our journalism and business goals are. So I talk a lot internally about you have to measure what matters. If you’re measuring a certain metric, is it going to lead folks within your organization to behave in ways that optimize for it?”

Use a combination of metrics. “There’s always a notion of chasing what is the perfect metric, and it seems to change every year,” Savenije said. “It’s kind of a fool’s errand. Bringing together analysis from multiple metrics is often what forms a fuller picture and the more nuanced understanding of how our readers behave in ways that are easy to understand… It’s all about measuring our relationship with our reader through the interactions that they have with our product.”

Use your model to help determine your metrics. Industry Dive monetizes engagement from senior executives and business leaders “by working with marketers that are looking to reach those kinds of folks and promote offerings that they might purchase, such as enterprise level software,” Savenije said. So target audience behavior “is very critical to that. It’s really important to know how valuable we are to them. We want to know how they’re engaging with the content; it’s more important to us to have 10,000 really highly engaged target readers than 1 million random readers who we don’t know.” A target subscriber report helps them measure core reader behavior. “We also look at reader loyalty and conversions so sign-ups on stories and repeat visits and things like that [are important].”

Monitor your websites. Savenije calls these “the mothership of our publications, where we have the hub of everything, where you can sign up for our newsletter, so this tells us how readers engaged with the site, how they come to the site, how they leave the site when they come back and how readers engage with stories on the site.”

Supplement metrics with feedback. “Our audience team has built or tailored various measurement tools to give our editorial team a better feedback loop,” Savenije said. “If you talk to any journalist, they really want to focus on the quality and the value and the impact of their coverage, and that’s absolutely what they should focus on. There’s a gap there in measuring those things with traditional analytics, so we’ve tried to close the gap… We conduct an annual reader survey to measure reader sentiment and understand their perception. We started doing this a couple years ago to address exactly this kind of qualitative gap in our data, and as we’ve done it more and more it becomes a really helpful benchmark for ourselves.”

Know when stories are getting picked up. Industry Dive uses a PR tool to “measure earned media coverage.” They believe that stories that get picked up or referenced by other media outlets or in legal proceedings or in legislative documentation reflect unique coverage. The tool has capabilities to send weekly reports and look into deeper analytics such as times cited and the breadth of publications involved.

Resist the clickbait. “A really extreme example of this would have been the kind of big traffic boards that you might have seen in digital media organizations 10 years ago, and that that led to a lot of clickbait,” Savenije said. “But none of those tactics really lead to sustainable relationships with readers. So you have to be really disciplined, I think, about understanding what you measure, what you value and, ultimately, what you reward people for.”

Know your competition. “We also look at market sentiment and perception,” Savenije said. “How does the industry feel about our coverage? How do we stack up vs. other publishers? What is their view and feelings about our coverage? That’s a lot harder to measure. And then we also look at industry impact and recognition, so this could be reactions from the industry or actions taken by the industry after our coverage. It could be awards for coverage, it could be earned media coverage of our reporting, and those are things that can be really unique and impactful for our publications.”

Build a loyalty dashboard. “This is based on repetition of engagement,” Savenije said. “We can measure that at given time frames, and we can also measure different buckets of our audiences depending on that. How are those buckets not only performing but how are they growing in total and proportionately over time?” The dashboard helps to close the gap between having one story or one issue that does really well and the consistency of coverage that readers value. In addition, sign-up reports let Industry Dive see what stories are driving the most conversions.

Educate your editorial staff. The audience and marketing team creates actionable dashboards for the editorial team. “This not only helps us measure more of the things that matter to our audience, but it makes it really easy for our editorial team to get actionable insights that they can make decisions on and can really inform what they’re doing.” A data and analytics team, nested within that group, works closely with the newsroom and also helps to build custom dashboards. A central analytics hub for the newsroom has a repository with all the reports. During onboarding, a training session walks new people through those reports and how to read them. They offer that training on an ongoing basis, so people may want to do it each year.

It all pays dividends. “When they’re looking at the data with more experience at that point, and then we’re weaving these insights from analytics into regular meetings and decisions, that’s the huge kind of cultural component of this,” Savenije said. “You really want to develop that comfort level internally with using data, being data literate, and understanding what the analysts say and don’t say. Knowing that we need to exercise our judgment when we make decisions based off of [the data], that’s how we look at analytics within the Industry Dive newsroom.”

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A Combo Platter of Metrics and Knowing Your Goals May Be Best, Two Leaders Say

Audience metrics and which ones publishers should focus on continue to matter greatly—and only get more varied as our platforms advance. It used to be having a high open rate and few unsubscribes would allow you a good night’s sleep. Now time-on-page, page views, scroll depth, article scores, shares, printouts and even absence can all keep you up at night. We asked two leading publishers to weigh in

“We still look at open rates for our newsletters and several other metrics—but it is important to understand what these metrics actually tell you, and what they don’t,” Davide Savenije, editor in chief for Industry Dive and its stable of 23 newsletters, told me in an email recently. “If you understand your goals, you can figure out which metrics you need to pay attention and in what ways they are relevant—it’s never a single golden metric; for us, it’s a composite picture of multiple metrics that fill in different parts of the picture and that are tailored to your goals. These metrics provide you with a feedback loop from your readers that helps you guide strategy and adapt where necessary as you see the results. Benchmarking is also important so that you have context on what the numbers mean.”

As Savenije and the other leading publisher I turned to for this article, Dan Fink, managing director of Money-Media, both indicate, it is not just one metric that can tell the whole story. It’s more of a combo platter, depending on your needs and goals—be it building subscriber loyalty, adding new members/subscribers, increasing engagement, moving people to and within your site, or all of the above.

“We’re looking at time-on-page in addition to page views to assess which articles are resonating with readers,” Fink wrote to me. “It’s useful to look at average time and total time for each article. This reveals that the article with the most clicks doesn’t always get the most time. That’s important because users put a greater value on the amount of time they spend with your content, than the number of times they click on it.

“We are also looking at scroll depth (i.e. how far down the page readers scroll). This gives a similar insight to time-on-page. We are working to develop a formula that combines page views, time-on-page and other user actions (print, save, share, etc.) into a single metric. My plan is to shift our internal focus on this new engagement metric, since it is more valid than one-dimensional page views.”

recent article on INMA titled, Should Time Replace Pageviews as the North Star Audience Metric?, showed that time spent has gained traction throughout the industry. At Facebook, time spent helps rank the News Feed. At Google, it informs search results. “At Netflix and Spotify, play time guides content, product and marketing decisions.” A Netflix study found that “the total hours spent watching was the most predictive for member retention, well ahead of movie or show ratings.”

Finding the metric that most ties into reader/subscriber loyalty would seem to be the gold standard. Mediahuis, a huge international media company in Antwerp, Belgium, also found that “aggregated time spent on the site by individual readers correlated with the likelihood they converted to paid subscribers and renewed.” Other research confirms this, though visit frequency often tops even time.

Of course, metrics do not tell all. Industry Dive goes the extra mile, setting up “measurement and feedback loops” to try to answer further questions about value and loyalty, quality of their coverage and even which readers you should covet most.

“At the same time that we use website and other metrics to tell us important specific things about readers, I think there is a big analytics gap in the journalism world in terms of measuring the qualitative value of your relationship with readers outside of these specific contexts,” Savenije wrote. “There are many important questions that the above metrics do not provide clear answers to. What value do readers believe you provide? How loyal are your readers? Where do readers see you vs. your competition? Are some readers more important to your editorial model than others, and how do you measure your relationship with them? What do readers think about the quality of your coverage? Are they satisfied with your product?

“At Industry Dive, we have worked to build up measurement and feedback loops to help us answer these important questions. We have a data analytics team within our audience department that helps us build measurement tools around these questions, and develop custom dashboards to make them easy for our editorial teams to interpret and glean actionable takeaways from them.”

That last part is music to an editorial person’s ears. In 2019, the Financial Times, Money-Media’s parent company, developed a Quality Reads metric that “measured page views qualified by the threshold of time and scroll depth,” writes INMA. “For a page view to be counted as a Quality Read, the reader needs to spend at least 50% time required to read the whole article estimated by the number of words and scroll to at least 50% of the page’s length.”

We will continue to cover this important topic. What are your go-to metrics? Let me know at rlevine@siia.net. Thanks!

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‘Analytics as a Decision-Making Tool’; Metrics Work Best as a Means to a Well Thought Out End

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“How do you change your habits after you’ve learned about analytics?” asked Vidisha Priyanka (pictured), visiting instructor at the University of South Florida and a former interactive learning manager for the famed Poynter Institute, in a discussion we had on content metrics here a couple years ago. “How will it change your daily habit of writing and reporting and engaging your audience? How do you understand when your audience is trying to engage with you? And who is your audience?”

Most editorial people are not data and analytics experts, myself included. Yet as our world becomes more and more digital, so many more metrics have become available to us. It used to be having a high open rate and few unsubscribes would allow you a good night’s sleep. Now page views, time on page—the trendiest metric—scroll depth, shares, printouts and even absence between visits can each keep us up at night. (Absence may make the heart grow fonder but perhaps not the reader.)

“And what about drop-off rates?” Priyanka continued. “I’m reading an article that you’ve written and you poured your heart and soul in it, but people are dropping off after four paragraphs. So how do we improve your writing or presenting skills? What do you do with multimedia content? How do you add a visual or a graphic? So we talk about analytics not just as numbers, but analytics as a decision-making tool.”

What triggered my recollection of Priyanka was an email exchange this week with Davide Savenije, editor in chief for one of the fastest growing publishers, AM&P Network member Industry Dive and its 23 newsletters. Like Priyanka, they view analytics and metrics as a way to get better.

“We have a data analytics team within our audience department that helps us build measurement tools around [our major reader] questions, and develop custom dashboards to make [the data] easy for our editorial teams to interpret and glean actionable takeaways from them,” Savenije wrote.

That should be music to an editorial person’s ears. Both Savenije and the other leading publisher I turned to for this article, Dan Fink, managing director of Money-Media, a Financial Times company, both indicate that it is not just one metric that tells the whole story. And how you measure your metrics must also be tied to your goals—be it building member loyalty, increasing engagement, getting members to events, or all of the above.

“We still look at open rates for our newsletters and several other metrics—but it is important to understand what these metrics actually tell you, and what they don’t,” Savenije wrote. “If you understand your goals, you can figure out which metrics you need to pay attention and in what ways they are relevant—it’s never a single golden metric; for us, it’s a composite picture of multiple metrics that fill in different parts of the picture and that are tailored to your goals. These metrics provide you with a feedback loop from your readers that helps you guide strategy and adapt where necessary as you see the results.  Benchmarking is also important so that you have context on what the numbers mean.”

The Growth of Time-on-Page

Money-Media has several verticals and has always focused intently on metrics, infographics and visual storytelling. Yet the top of their website still reflects their guiding principle: “Content Is King.”

“We’re looking at time-on-page in addition to page views to assess which articles are resonating with readers,” Fink wrote to me. “It’s useful to look at average time and total time for each article. This reveals that the article with the most clicks doesn’t always get the most time. That’s important because users put a greater value on the amount of time they spend with your content, than the number of times they click on it.

“We are also looking at scroll depth (i.e. how far down the page readers scroll). This gives a similar insight to time-on-page. We are working to develop a formula that combines page views, time-on-page and other user actions (print, save, share, etc.) into a single metric. My plan is to shift our internal focus on this new engagement metric, since it is more valid than one-dimensional page views.”

A recent article on INMA titled, Should Time Replace Pageviews as the North Star Audience Metric?, showed that time-on-page has gained traction all over. At Facebook, time spent helps rank the News Feed. At Google, it informs search results. “At Netflix and Spotify, play time guides content, product and marketing decisions.” A Netflix study found that “the total hours spent watching was the most predictive for member retention, well ahead of movie or show ratings.”

For Savenije, there’s so much more than just metrics to determine if their content is accomplishing what it needs to.

“There are many important questions that the above metrics do not provide clear answers to. What value do readers believe you provide? How loyal are your readers? Where do readers see you vs. your competition? Are some readers more important to your editorial model than others, and how do you measure your relationship with them? What do readers think about the quality of your coverage? Are they satisfied with your product?

“At Industry Dive, we have worked to build up measurement and feedback loops to help us answer these important questions.”