Texas Tribune Works Through Analytics Issues at Collab/Space Austin

    by Jordon Brown
    April 24, 2015
    Rodney Gibbs, Chief Innovation Officer of the Texas Tribune at Collab/Space Austin. Photo by Mengwen Cao.

    Although ISOJ kicked off in Austin on last Friday, it was preceded by an all-day workshop, Collab/Space Austin, with a focus on analytics, metrics and measuring impact.

    There were seven startups and innovation projects that presented how they are tackling media metrics, and the group helped them identify unique challenges. One of those presenters, Rodney Gibbs, Chief Innovation Officer of the Texas Tribune, discussed how the Texas Tribune could more accurately measure their wide array of metrics and connect with their target audience better.

    "We're promiscuous with our content." - Rodney Gibbs
    Rodney Gibbs talking about the Texas Tribune. Photo by Mengwen Cao.

    Rodney Gibbs talking about the Texas Tribune. Photo by Mengwen Cao.


    The issue that the Tribune faces is that they have metrics coming in from multiple sources. They have online readership of their stories, viewership of their broadcast work and attendance at their events. But each of those has multiple ways to measure success — without one over-arching metric to give them an idea of overall impact. They considered one “all-audience metric” but weren’t sure how to do that.

    Content distribution means thorny metrics

    Another issue that the Tribune faces when trying to measure their analytics is that their content is free, so it’s often difficult to measure metrics when that content makes its way across the web with little trackability. Gibbs said that they liked having promiscuous content, comparing their business model to the character Joe Buck from “Midnight Cowboy,” who was a male prostitute. But the difference was that Buck had a pay wall of sorts while the Tribune just gave it away.


    Not only does the Tribune have multiple areas in which to measure analytics, but it would also like to tap into a much larger fan base. The Tribune believes that there are potentially 4 million more Tribune readers in Texas, a market they would love to capitalize on. They categorize these people as college-educated, regular voters, but they aren’t reaching that market as much as they would like.

    Finding solutions

    After the problem areas for each of the startups was identified and honed in on, Collab/Space broke up into smaller groups to focus on the individual issues. Gibbs’ group discussed the importance of finding new users and capitalizing on those that are already engaged. In the smaller session, plans were made for the Tribune to be more active with people that had attended an event. Those people, especially if they aren’t already engaged, were identified as a huge potential resource for the Tribune to not only expand readership, but also expand membership.

    Other potential solutions included a survey to find a subset of Tribune users who have made something happen in the world, based on what they learned on the site or at an event. Similarly, this kind of survey could identify people who might share stories with an eye on making a difference or activism.

    You can see the worksheet for the Tribune’s breakout group (and all breakout groups from Collab/Space Austin) in this group of shared documents.

    Overall, Gibbs found the process very rewarding and was ready to take back some of the ideas discussed to the Tribune office.

    After graduating from Southeast Missouri State with a degree in film, Jordon Brown moved to Los Angeles and worked on movies that you probably haven’t seen, like Nanny Diaries and Take Me Home Tonight. Finding the work lackluster, Jordon moved to Austin and fell in love. Not just with the city and its culture, but also a pet pig named Mortimer. Currently, Jordon works as a graduate teaching assistant at Texas State where he is also getting a Masters in Digital Media. After graduation, which is frighteningly close, Jordon would like to teach undergrads in the ways of digital.

    Tagged: collab/space austin collaboration journalism knight foundation rodney gibbs storify texas tribune youtube

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