News Leadership 3.0

July 16, 2008

The numbers game

@ Leadership conference:
Metrics that matter
for online success

Dana Chinn of the USC Annenberg School for Communication is just starting a presentation on Web metrics.
Here’s her list of key performance indicators:
- Overall health: Visits per unique visitor, page views per visit
- Driving traffic to multiple audiences: Top entry and landing pages, rejectrate/bounce rate, conversion rate for e-mail newsletters- Growth: Visitor frequency, recency, new vs. returning visitors, most popular stories
- Internal search: Visits using search, site exits after using search
- Time spent during visits


Steve Yelvington about metrics and chasing traffic:

“Any time you create a score board. You’re creating an incentive system. People are very competitive.” This can help with culture change around Web metrics and growing traffic.

The caution: People can get carried away. Yelvington told the story of an online editor who posted photos of young women in bikinis. Traffic skyrocketed. But that performance indicator wasn’t consistent with the goal of the site - to build a consistent local audience using the Web site for utility” What we were building was an audience of 14 year old boys from out of market.”
“These are all people who are using the Web site, not people who are not using the web site, which is most of the world.” Tailoring to the audience may limit its utility for others.

More from Chinn:

“Insight is not action. There is no point in knowing stuff if you don’t do anything about it.”

Two major kinds of research: Behavioral and Attitudinal

Behavioral research - tracking online behavior as it happens, not an artificial test
Measuring uUique vistors - visit Web sites, generate pages views

“You need to pay more attention to large increases and decreases rather than spikes or small movements.”

Behavioral raises the question: Why? That’s where attitudinal comes in.

Attitudinal research - what people are thinking, what they’re interested in, whether they found it on your site or with you or your competitors, how satisfied, loyal they are and how apt to recommend your site to others.
“If people like you they’ll think of you when they need news and information”

Chinn sees a large gap between number of peole who say they access Internet daily for news and information vs the smaller number who access the named newspaper web site daily for news and information. The Readership Institute similar finding: 62% had never visited their local newspaper Web site. 14 percent had visited in the last 7-30 days. The statistics have changed little in the last five years.

Attitudinal research, ask four questions:
1. what was the purpose of your visit today?
2. Were you able to complete your task today?
3. 3. If you were not able to complete your task, why not?
4. If you did complete your task, what did you enjoy most about the site?

Together, behavioral and attitudinal a sense of engagement and satisfaction.

Measuring alone doesn’t mean you improve.

You need
1. A plan or objective or goals with specific tactics that are measurable.
2. Whch measurements are really going to indicate whether you’ve progress and what drives each measure?
3. Who is responsible for each measure?

Chinn stresses accountability on the staff and among editors for improving key performance indicators.
“Shouldn’t you be accountable? If you aren’t, who is?” Chinn asked the editors.

Chinn cautions about use of “time spent during visits.”

“Time spent during visits doesn’t really give you engagement. Frequency and recency metrics are better .. for inferring engagement and predicting future behavior.” Look at it primarily as a supplment to other metrics.

Vivian Vahlberg, Media Management Center, asks how many editors have a traffic expert on staff. About half raise their hands:
“One of the keys may well be to get someone on staff who knows enough to know the data and help you use it,” Vahlberg says.

Chinn advises editors to “start with the basics” and have someone on staff learn to understand the fundamental metrics. “That Web analyst should be ideally in the newsroom, not on the marketing side.”

I hope to grab a copy of Chinn’s 20-page guide to Web Analytics for Editors and add a link by tonight.

Update: Here’s Chinn’s report.



There have been questions about alternatives and additions to behavioral metrics - if you do attitudinal research, the rate of return for a survey needn’t be more than 20% (that’s what we use in academia). What is most important, though, is how the questions are written. Survey design is a complicated art, and you want to make sure you ask precise questions that are not leading and are not vague. As Steve Yelvington mentioned, consider partnering with academic institutions who would love to work with you on creating and shaping surveys for this sort of research.

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Exploring innovation, transformation and leadership in a new ecosystem of news, by journalist and change advocate Michele McLellan.

Get in touch with Michele at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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