There is something we need to have a talk about. Every other month or so, someone publishes an article telling journalists that analytics don't work, that they don't tell you what you need, and that newsrooms still need to rely on their gut instinct. And then these articles give you a long list of examples of how these don't work, all using the wrong metrics to measure the wrong things.
The latest example of this is "The Unknowable News Audience", which many people in my media circles started sharing.
For instance, it says this:
Before the advent of digital news production and the online measurement tools that followed, journalists tended to decide among themselves what to report and publish, and assumed the audience would agree with their judgment. Now, journalists across the globe increasingly go through their daily routines while face-to-face with online measurement data that describe the audience's reaction to their output as those reactions unfold.
Perhaps the strangest thing about this development is how ineffective it appears to have been in improving journalism's standing among the public. If journalists are finally listening to the audience, why is journalism so disdained? If news publishers can now determine exactly what the audience wants, why are so many struggling to survive? And if solving journalism's ailments begins with giving the audience more of a say, why does it end with so much confusion?
"The answer is that, contrary to the notion that online metrics would lead to a "rationalization of audience understanding," audience analytic data continue to leave plenty of room for interpretation.
And then the article finishes by saying:
Journalists will likely continue [...] drawing on their own gut instincts and assumptions about the people they aspire to reach.
And this is just one example of many. The mistake that everyone makes is that they are not measuring what they need to measure, so of course it doesn't work.
You can't measure something like trust in journalism by how long people stay on your site or how many pageviews you get. We know that those two things have nothing to do with trust. If pageviews defined trust then the newspapers with the highest number of pageviews would also be the most trusted. But they are not.
So why do we keep seeing articles like the one above? Why do people keep claiming that analytics doesn't work for journalists when you are not even measuring the right things?
More importantly, how do you measure editorial analytics? How do you measure trust or what journalistic impact you have?
Well, let's define that. In fact, I already did exactly this back in 2017 in "How Editorial Analytics can Help you Define your Editorial Strategy". That article is still highly relevant, but let's simplify it.
The mistake that I see so many people make is that they don't realise you need three elements, whenever you want to measure something.
So, let's use 'trust in journalism' as our focus here, and let me start with the last point. In the article mentioned earlier, they quoted Ezra Klein for saying this:
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