Putting metrics to use on your beat

Part 2 of our metrics refresher. What does success look like? How do you translate what your metrics are telling you into story ideas or deeper insights into what your audience is seeking – both for premium content and reaching new readers with top of funnel content? Plus, an overview of the new Author dashboard that gives you insights into your content, orders and from where orders are coming (social maybe?!).


More training on Audience Engagement:

Understanding our key audience segments

Gannett has done extensive research into people interested in news — those who are in our audience today as well as those who aren’t — so we can better understand who we’re working for. These documents and workshops will help you understand the segments, what members of each segment want from us, and how we can earn them as subscribers.


More training on Audience Engagement:

DEI tagging for editors and producers

As your newsroom increases storytelling to reflect the communities we serve, what are best practices for tracking the content? Editors and producers are invited to join this session in which we will share revised tags to use for 2022 and what each tag means. Led by Senior Content Strategist Len LaCara and facilitated by Cynthia Benjamin, director of audience engagement and trust.


More training on Diversity & Inclusion:

Mapping tools that reveal inequalities in our communities

We have stories throughout the Network on issues that have directly affected marginalized communities, but what else is occurring there? Is this story a boiling point? Where else across the country has this same issue happened? How did it affect them? This will use Census data and two new network tools: Diversity Dashboard and Pass the Mic, to see where stories land and how to cultivate follow ups with sources.

Featuring: Krystal Nurse, reporter in Lansing, Mich., CJ Benjamin, director of audience engagement and trust and Rachel Kilroy, project manager in our content innovations group

Handy bookmark for census reporters

Here’s the census tract Krystal used during her demo.


More training on Digital design and production:

SEO Boot Camp 4: Engaging the Search Audience

Audience engagement is a critical aspect of SEO. If people bounce out of your content too quickly or have a negative experience, you won’t retain top rankings for long. This sessions discusses ways that journalists can turn short-term scanners into engaged readers who want to return to your site over and over again.


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Subscriber-only journalism: Making sure our work counts

A conversation on subscriber-only journalism and making sure our work counts.

Special thanks to Mike Feeley, Leisa Richardson, Romando Dixson and Jennifer Guadarrama for lending their real-world expertise.

Next steps:

  • Fan out training. Connect with your content strategist (for tier 1 and 2 shops) on how best to spread training to your teams. They’re ready to deliver a version of today’s talk to newsroom leaders (or entire newsrooms). For smaller community sites, we’ll worth with regional editors to figure out the best way to spread this out. 
  • Start working on an editor column. It’s a great chance to recap some of your best work and remind readers of the value you bring to your city (samples below). 
  • Bring your newsroom into the fold and work on best practices for responding to the community.
  • Focus on planning efforts for launch week and beyond. You’ll want to move into this with some strong journalism, but it’s important that you build subscriber-only enterprise planning processes to keep it up.

Resources:

Still to come:

  • More details on tracking. We’re still finding the best methods of tracking numbers of new subscribers based on premium work for some legacy GHM sites.
  • This report will show data for most sites (and others will appear in here soon). Attribution is currently defined as a “premium story read during a visit where someone subscribed.” If multiple stories are viewed during that subscribing visit, each gets credit.
  • Here is a dashboard link in Parse.ly that can be used to see readership of your premium work once you start posting it. Just change it to your website in the URL at the top.

Bonus: More expert editor voices

We didn’t have time to get to Brian Duggan, Caitlyn Stroh-Page and Cory Myers, all of whose expertise reflects great work in mid-size operations and premium journalism. There are some great tips below from editors who are excelling at subscriber only tactics:

Via Cory Myers, editor in Sioux Falls:

  • Double down on planning and discussion: We did the “what do we have that’s sub-only” for far too long, when it needs to be “what can we cover, what’s the unique angle, what smart analysis can we write that will ensure value for subscribers and differentiates us from competitors.” Every. Day.
  • Experiment: Three things we’ve done in recent months that we might not have produced have paid off:
    • We put all our election preview content subscriber only. Traffic numbers were about what we’d expect normally, but it also drove a couple dozen subs.
    • Most COVID coverage is free, but when South Dakota hit 1,000 deaths, we had a package of six or seven news obits along with a piece compiling a graph on every death we could confirm from our reporting. All premium, and that main story alone drove 42(!) subs last month.
    • Dining works. The TV show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives came to South Dakota for the first time recently. We did a ton of coverage, and one recent follow up we did about how the restaurants featured were dealing with the tsunami of customers we made sub only and in the first three days it has both 7 subs, but also around 8,000 pageviews.
  • Lastly: Use your content strategist! Kelli, Tovah, Bill, etc are awesome, and it’s their job to help us be successful. And they’re good at it!

Via Brian Duggan, editor in Reno:

  • Planning, planning, planning: Start a premium budget now. Dedicate your planning conversations with your editing staff around it. As Eric Larsen said in Fort Collins: “Serendipity is not strategy.” In other words, don’t wait until the last minute to make a story premium.
  • Meetings: We dedicate a staff news meeting each week to discussing our premium journalism so we can do some group work shopping. That said, the philosophy generally needs to be premium is a natural part of the daily conversation between reporters and editors.
  • We have organized our newsroom into teams: A new audience team (primarily public safety/breaking folks), an investigations/enterprise team (government and business writers) and a premium team (food writing, features writers, sports). While the entire newsroom shares all of those missions, the team structure creates champions to push on each of those fronts.
  • Over communicate with your audience. Write columns thanking them for subscribing. Write columns telling them about what it’s been like to run a newsroom during a pandemic. Do whatever you can do to remind them that your staff are their neighbors and are doing an important public service. You can’t over do this.
  • Journalism should not be driven by press releases. Ever. Do whatever you have to do to unlearn that muscle memory. Instead, get in the habit of finding unique angles (unless, of course, the press release is announcing significant breaking news). And if there isn’t something worthwhile, be OK with moving on to something else.  
  • Remind readers that public service still takes time: We’ve made critical public safety coverage of the pandemic free (stories about how to get vaccines, statewide closures, etc…) but at the very top of that story we make it clear to the reader that our news organization made that story free because it’s a part of our essential coronavirus coverage. We then immediately remind the reader to subscribe so they can support our public service.

Via Caitlyn Stroh-Page, editor in Athens:

  • Your headline and your promo image are your frontline sales team. The headline on stories can make or break subscriber-only opportunities. On stories that you know are going to be premium, spend extra time workshopping the headline. One thing we noticed while doing our hybrid test: we occasionally had stories that were missed subscriber-only opportunities where, with a small headline adjustment, the stories would have likely been strong converters. Recognizing the importance of headlines in S-O strategy also combats a lot of fears about quantity of premium stories. If you already have a practice of good story selection, this small trick will pay off!
  • Make sure your S-O selections have readership. We often fell into the trap of marking all niche content as S-O when, honestly, we either shouldn’t have been writing the stories OR we should have come at it from a different angle to be a more local voice. There are opportunities where niche beats can be S-O successes, but it can be a challenge to pinpoint them + not abandon them.
  • Not all S-O needs to be watchdog, enterprise, hard news. Chris White wisely advised that “convenient and compelling” is a great recipe for S-O. That may be something like a “The 25 Athens area high school football players you need to know” or “It’s hiking time! Here are the 10 best hikes within an hour of Athens” 
  • As Leisa said on the call, your prime premium window is a M-TH publish day and having stories publish in the morning. Get comfortable at 3 p.m. saying “OK this can hold until tomorrow” on stories that are not time sensitive.
  • Celebrate digital subscription wins!! No need to minimize the importance of other metrics, but incorporate celebrating every single digital start into your everyday conversations.

More training on Audience Engagement:

Digital subscription strategies for small and mid-sized newsrooms

Editors of small and mid-sized newsrooms take part discussion on digital subscription strategies that work in smaller markets. We’ll share metrics, best practices and ideas to try.

Here’s a Zoom recording of the session. Passcode: %gBq8gji 


More training on Audience Engagement:

How to build a metrics-savvy newsroom

Betsy O’Donovan and Melody Kramer interviewed two dozen journalists and data analysts across 20 organizations, hunting for practices that are broad enough to be useful to most newsrooms, but specific enough that they provide at least a basic blueprint. Here’s what they found:

The newsrooms that are most effective at using metrics are the ones that help journalists understand which metrics they can control and how — and how that fits into the organization’s overall success.

Having regular conversations with journalists about what the numbers are showing and why is the best way to build data savvy in the newsroom.

Newsrooms should do regular gut checks to see if focusing on a particular metric is having the desired effect on the bottom line. For example, does trying to increase newsletter opens or page views actually help convert readers into subscribers, if driving subscriptions is the overarching goal?

Metrics should be viewed as an opportunity for experimentation, rather than a report card measuring a journalist’s performance. Newsrooms that celebrate success and analyze failures in a constructive way help drive journalists’ natural curiosity and dispel any distrust around metrics.


More training on Audience Engagement: