editor on the verge

Online musings from the newsroom and beyond . . . by Yoni Greenbaum

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Get the most from your online data

December 31st, 2007 · 6 Comments

Recent posts by Jack Lail and Patrick Beeson got me wondering about how newspapers use the online data they collect.

On Sunday, Jack wrote a post about the firing of career columnist Penelope Trunk allegedly because “her columns commanded low advertising rates.” He explained that:

“Print media writers look askance at how ratings affect TV news, but in the digital economy, they face the prospect of eventually being tied to their advertising generating power, the almighty CPM, or advertising cost per thousand impressions.”

That got Patrick writing a post that proposed the question:

“What if instead of salaries, newspaper reporters and columnists were paid according to the advertising CPM (cost per thousand) their work generated online?”

Fortunately for many reporters, Patrick concludes that now is not the right moment for this approach:

“Though it would be interesting to use it as a metric for bonuses or raises.”

He closes by encouraging reporters and columnists to inquire about their own CPM.

Now I don’t know if Patrick was being serious or not, but it’s a great idea, especially since most newspapers have access to vast amounts of data about their websites.

See news organizations need to have some way of justifying the rates they charge online advertisers. They require statistics like the number of unique visitors, number of pages views and the times that people visit their sites. In order to collect and analyze this data, many newspapers contract with companies like Omniture or SiteMeter or set-up their own server-side data collection systems.

Since the primary purpose of this data is advertising and marketing, reports (daily, weekly, monthly or whatever) are shared with executives in those departments. Senior editors may see data for the most viewed stories, if that. And maybe, reports are shared with editors and some reporters. But overall, that’s typically as far as it goes and therein, I believe, lies the problem.

This data should be shared, widely, throughout the newsroom. I think it’s important for desk editors and reporters to understand the habits of their online readers. Desk editors should know what stories play best online; this is not to say that you don’t report some stories, but editors should understand of what plays best and where.

Newsroom staffs should understand how content is playing on social news and bookmarking sites. Are photo galleries receiving lots of views and what about audio slide shows? How are our video’s doing? While I don’t think the data should be used to weigh and justify every coverage decision, it should be taken into consideration, just like an editor considers what else a reporter is working on before assigning them another story.

We all talk about how powerful data is — we use it to prove points, justify decisions and attract people to our sites. Well data about your website is powerful too, so what are you doing with it?

Tags: Analytics · Best Practices · Industry · Innovation · Metrics · Online

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jack Lail // Dec 31, 2007 at 9:43 am

    We do share a daily Top 50 “article” list (it includes blogs and slide shows) based on our Omniture stats with everyone in the newsroom, the newspaper’s overall executives and some others. We do a little bit of comment on the Top 10, but our URLs are usually some part of the hed so newsroom folks can easily see what happened yesterday. In our case, six to eight of the top 10 will typically be sports. And the power of breaking news can be easily seen.

    Online produces also use Omniture’s click map on our home page to see what is attracting readers right now.

    I think it is having some impact in the newsroom in story decisions, but there’s also a thought that online readers are somehow “different” than print readers although our Scarborough data says NOT.

    I haven’t seen any negatives from sharing the data.

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