5 Strategies for Reporting Metrics in Your Newsroom

    by Tim Cigelske
    August 17, 2016
    Screenshot from Office Space

    An insightful quote from a source doesn’t help anyone if it gets lost and forgotten about in a notebook.

    To be useful, good reporting has to actually reach an audience.

    The same is true of metrics. It’s not enough to collect data. You need to communicate the information in a way that’s efficient, clear and helpful in order for it to be effective.


    Here are five strategies for sharing metrics internally that you might want to adopt.

    Rank your metrics

    Not all metrics are equal, and your reporting of metrics shouldn’t be, either. The Daily Signal prioritizes what’s important by ranking 70 different individual metrics for the Heritage Foundation-run news site. An email sign-up, for example, ranks near the top. A Facebook like? Not so much.

    The weighting also allows it to value the influential readers on Medium, even if its audience is smaller on that platform. “With this system, we’re able to say: All things being equal, we care a little more about a pageview on Medium,” Heritage Foundation director of digital strategy Ory Rinat told Nieman Lab.


    Automate it

    Sometimes it’s best for everyone to keep it simple. You’re busy, they’re busy. To save time, set up a template or automate the process such that you don’t need to pull data by hand.

    For example, Jessica Pucci, director of engagement & analytics at Cronkite News, feeds Google Analytics into a Google Sheet, which populates a dashboard on a Google Site. “It’s not the prettiest, but hey, it’s FREE!” she wrote in the MediaShift Metrics & Impact Facebook group. “And it’s been a really effective way for anyone in the building to very, very quickly check our performance without having to pull up a report at all.”

    Digital metrics analyst Daniel Frohlich does something similar at NPR. “It’s possible to make it look nice if you utilize cell references and many many formulas to organize the data,” he wrote. “Then you just create tables and graphs based on that.”

    Create posters

    Inboxes are where metrics reports often go to die. It’s all too easy for a PDF to go unopened or an email to get a quick glance on an iPhone before getting forgotten or deleted.

    Instead, try creating reports the old-fashioned way — on physical paper.

    In my office, I get interns to write up posters with our top posts during a reporting period, and then put them up in visible areas of the office. This gets others to see the reports repeatedly, take notice and maybe even start a conversation about how to follow up on ideas that worked the first time.

    Make it a contest

    MediaShift metrics section editor Jason Alcorn shares how his newsroom made a contest out of their metrics reports. At Americas Quarterly, they rotated responsibility for doing a morning round-up post for the site among a team of writers and interns. That Daily Focus post birthed the Delta Foxtrot Challenge, a weekly metrics leaderboard. The winner each week won free lunch on Friday, paid for by the rest of the team.

    “Bragging about metrics got us talking about metrics and about what readers cared about,” Alcorn said. “Win-win in my book.”

    Document it on a blog

    NPR doesn’t limit the lessons they learn from metrics to conversations inside their office. Instead, the social media desk has its own public blog at socialmediadesk.tumblr.com. The advantages of “sharing what we learn in the social space,” as the website tagline states, is that you can tap into the wisdom of the crowd.

    Swapping feedback, tips and stories of what works and what doesn’t helps everyone figure out where we’re headed. In a 2014 blog post, Melody Joy Kramer and Wright Bryan explain why the blog exists: “It’s also a place where we can highlight our successes, failures and curiosities,” they write, “with the hope that others might take our work and build on it.”

    Now you can build on that core concept, too.

    Tim Cigelske (@TeecycleTim) is the Associate Editor of MetricShift. He has reported and written for the Associated Press, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Budget Travel, Adventure Cyclist and more. Today, he is the Director of Social Media at Marquette University as well as an adjunct professor teaching media writing and social media analytics. You may also know him as The Beer Runner blogger for DRAFT Magazine.

    Tagged: contests dashboard management metrics reports newsroom metrics reporting tools training

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