By Dana Chinn, Media Impact Project Director
I am really looking forward to the Media Analytics Summit next week. It's being run by Jim Sterne, the founder of many things analytics, including eMetrics and the Digital Analytics Association.
Jim, who really knows how to run a results-oriented conference, e-mailed attendees the following questions:
At first I didn't respond, as the summit's primary goal is to "share ideas and best practices for how analytics drives profitability." After all, the Media Impact Project is focused on audience analytics, or how analytics can be used by newsrooms and content creators to increase and deepen their impact.
But, after Jim sent a reminder e-mail to us laggards, I responded with:
Hi Jim - Here's a question that I've been working on, but it's probably out of scope for the conference:
Jim replied: "I think that's a pretty cogent issue, Dana - and one that a number of our attendees are responsible for!"
Hey Jim - Well, here's the reason I thought it might be out of scope. My projects focus on the newsroom and the social impact of media. I've been working with non-profit news orgs and for-profit news orgs that have grants from foundations. It's been challenging to develop audience KPIs with newsrooms when they are being held to goals based on advertiser metrics such as total page views or simplistic "engagement" metrics such as pages per visit.
So why am I going to the summit? First, the agenda is pretty compelling, and I never want to miss an opportunity to hear James Robinson of The New York Times (and Media Impact Project advisory board member) speak. In his keynote, James will discuss The New York Times' "Package Mapper," which is just one of the innovative ways that "[The] New York Times’ News Analytics team works closely with editors and reporters to introduce audience insights into journalistic decision-making."
Uh, this sounds very related to the Media Impact Project.
For news orgs to thrive (not just survive), can there be two sets of completely different Key Performance Indicator metrics, one that the newsroom uses to make decisions about coverage and another that the business side sells to advertisers?
Some news orgs are using only one set of metrics - or even only one metric, page views. This leads to misguided and demoralizing newsroom decisions such as having more cat videos and less government reporting.
Tying newsroom decisions directly to advertising performance is not just bad journalism. It's bad business. Advertising-based news orgs are two-sided, chicken-vs.-egg markets or networks. They need both the right audience and the right advertisers to succeed, and both sides need to target the same audience.
So it follows that there should be audience KPI metrics that are used by both the newsroom and the business side. But can both sides also have their own different KPIs? This would go against the types of conventional analytics best practices that I first learned about from gurus such as Jim Sterne, Avinash Kaushik (also a Media Impact Project advisory board member) and Thomas Davenport and his team.
In any case, I'm looking forward to spending a couple of days at the Media Analytics Summit exploring "analytics that drive profitability." And I'll come off my high horse and stop talking about "advertising analytics." Let's just keep both sides talking about audience analytics, and about using them in ways that lead to a thriving news industry in both the short- and the long-term.