By Jesse Goodman, Bulletin Correspondent
‘Analytics have informed the way we reference our content on social media … The content itself hasn’t changed a whole lot, but we’re more conscious about what works on social media.’
— Carlos Virgen,
Digital news director,
New London, Conn.
News organizations now use the internet to post stories more immediately and get information to readers as quickly as something happens. With that immediacy comes a tool that was not available to print newspapers: digital analytics.
Digital analytics measure readership, click-through rates, the amount of time spent on a story, and a multitude of other statistics to help news organizations figure out what kinds of stories work well with their readership, and what kinds do not work as well.
The New England Newspaper Conference will feature a panel discussion titled “Using analytics to drive newsroom discussions” at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 12, at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Natick, Mass.
‘I use digital analytics heavily, and I’ve used them since I started at the Globe. It’s important because I need to know what our readers like.’
— Jason Tuohey,
Deputy managing editor,
digital platforms and audience engagement,
“Analytics have helped us realize that people like what we do, and encourage us to double down on it,” said panelist Jason Tuohey, deputy managing editor, digital platforms and audience engagement at The Boston Globe. “I use digital analytics heavily, and I’ve used them since I started at the Globe. It’s important because I need to know what our readers like.”
Tuohey, who previously was news editor at Boston.com, said generally the stories people are interested in are the staples of journalism, such as sports coverage or breaking news stories. But that doesn’t mean that the analytics won’t reveal surprises.
“You can make educated guesses on what people will like, but you never really know until you publish it and people read it,” Tuohey said.
For panelist Carlos Virgen, digital news director at The Day of New London, Conn., analytics have helped reinforce what type of stories are covered by the Day.
“Analytics have informed the way we reference our content on social media,” Virgen said. “We’re using the opportunity to be more personable in the sharing of content. The content itself hasn’t changed a whole lot, but we’re more conscious about what works on social media.”
Virgen, who was originally a graphic designer before getting into journalism, said high school sports and intimate personal portraits of people in the community both do well with the Day’s readers, as do crime reports. Virgen said analytics help editors and writers see what stories do well compared to others.
‘Some stories don’t resonate, and we go back and look why. Some people get trapped up in the big number. What else could you be doing besides the big breaking news story?’
— Tom Zuppa,
At The Sun of Lowell, Mass, analytics have helped reporters learn what new projects they produce are well received by their readers.
“There are some stories you’re excited about where you can hear the air coming out of the balloon,” Tom Zuppa, managing editor/days at the Sun, said. “Some stories don’t resonate, and we go back and look why. Some people get trapped up in the big number. What else could you be doing besides the big breaking news story?”
Zuppa said some of the Sun’s highest viewed pieces are slideshows from sports games, not of the game themselves, but of the fans in the stands.
“You’re putting yourself out there to show you’re not covering just tragedies; you’re trying to build up your audience to trust you,” Zuppa said. “(The slideshows were) successful because we took a chance on something.”