Friday, 30 October 2009

Chief editors: Content producers should have access to performance data

I've spoken to a handful of people lately who seem to be skeptical about letting content producers have access to data about their stories and front pages. Some chief editors may fear that their reporters will spend too much time looking at numbers while they should be out there catching the good stories. Some web analytics experts may be afraid of their jobs.

Web analytics departments in news corporations focus on ad optimizing and long-term conversion analysis. In many cases, that's money well spent too (if they can convince advertisers that they are measuring useful stuff).

And of course, news media executives love to use metrics to brag about traffic increase, while still lacking a way to monetize it.

Not even journalists themselves seem to care about using web analytics to perform better. For example, in this article at about using web analytics to improve the web, there's no mention of anything remotely relevant for a journalist.

Bloggers have long realized they can use web analytics to improve their blog. The news media should follow up. It's well-know that web users scan instead of read, which is the first reason you should not just go ahead and publish online at midnight whatever you have in print the next day. Since online readers are impatient, they scan for important keywords, links and actionable items such as videos, that make their reading easier.

If they don't find what they're looking for, they will search elsewhere -- oh no -- at a competing site.

Of course, online you have an advantage over print; you can change stuff -- at no cost! As often as you want! And you should - right now!

Because if you do, your next reader will stay instead of going to your competitor's site.

For frontpage editors, this may involve changing the headline, or picture, to see abrupt increases in popularity of a particular story. For reporters, it might involve adding linked related content or multimedia

Fortunately, everyone can be a web analytics expert.

And while you're at it. Don't just send the reporters an email with the performance data. Let them look it up in the analytics tool themselves. And don't forget to display all the snacksy key data on a big screen in the desk room!

So this is a pledge to all chief editors: make performance data available to content producers, and your front-page editors and journalists will soar by actually knowing how the users respond. Depending on what tool you have, they may even get the relevant data in time to make cool changes, and make your users happy enough to stay and read on.

Image: Creative Commons

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