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.

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