Reader metrics: We never have to wonder if readers cared about the 3-part series we wrote or whether Topic X is worth our time. With detailed site metrics, we can easily discover what our audience is craving, and balance that with the kind of journalism critical to a community.
Interactivity: We are fortunate to be alive during this extraordinary revolution in communication. Our readers have never had the opportunity to be this active in the direction of their local news operation. Through comments, community blogs and even plain old e-mail, we can be closer to the people that empower us than ever before.
Computer-assisted reporting: All reporting is computer-assisted nowadays, but the ability to add public information in easily accessible web formats can help cement newspapers' roles as community watchdogs and developers of enterprise coverage.
Finding real people: Although it sounds silly, getting ordinary people into stories as sources has come a long way since the "man on the street" rails newspapers would run. With Twitter and Facebook, entire communities of experts are a few mouse clicks away from being part of a good story.
In early 2013, the Coloradoan embarked on an ambitious plan with an equally ambitious hypothesis: What if we became obsessed with our metrics, but not just the quantity of them? Is it possible to quantify the measure of a good page view versus a bad one? Can we tell amazing, enterprise-focused journalism and still increase overall readership?
The answer has been an unequivocal yes.
Using a cocktail of site-wide and individual metrics, Coloradoan journalists are armed with the information they need to know the stories they're doing are the work the community has an appetite for. This isn't about measuring straight page views or 'chasing ambulances.' Using a unique mixture of content type reports, page view data, trending readership information, local referral rates and engaged minutes, the team is proving that good journalism will rise to the top if it meets the community's needs. Coupled with a real, personal engagement strategy, we can return a newsroom to its roots: answering key questions and listening to what our readers need.
Site-wide effects are studied by the online team, but assigning editors and reporters have a collective share in their community resonance as well. Analyzing the data often reveals that reporters write too many simple stories, and not enough 'dot-connecting' stories that readers desperately need. Going with a metrics-based approach has allowed us to slow down, take a breath, listen to our readers and go to bat for them.
The chart above is aggregate monthly page views; when we brought the entire news team into analyzing their work, the results dramatically shifted from a set of slowly declining numbers to a boom in growth. The way I see it, if you're going to clock in and work hard every day, let's spend that time answering the questions the community is asking of us.
In Salt Lake City, we took half a year and completely overhauled our online operation -- everything from workflow to hardware and a new site. Launched in June 2010, the new site is faster, more flexible and more responsive to breaking news.
Tribpreps.com » This was our first real niche venture. We promoted it excessively, and allowed teams to get in the act by posting blogs and updates. We most recently launched liveblogging on the site for playoff games. Page views have doubled what they were before we launched the site.
Utahsright.com » This site uses public databases to give Utahns access to salaries, crime, divorce rates, restaurant inspections and more. It's been a breakout hit â€?the site does close to a million page views a year and fills a niche we didn't previously own.
Inthisweek.com » This is a site we developed to go with our weekly alternative entertainment magazine. It's been a wonderful study in user-submitted content and creating a community. The print product only comes out once a week, but the 4-person staff constantly updates the site with rolling stories and blog entries.