Reporting by Ashton Day and production by Jon Doty.
Shannon McGregor and the team at the Engaging News Project believe analytics data can do a lot more than just help newsrooms attract audience. Through academic research out of the University of Texas at Austin, the Engaging News Project seeks to find ways newsrooms can use data to better understand what people really need.
- According to research from the Engaging News Project, online polls further polarize audiences, rather than create empathy for the other side. A better option, their research shows, is to offer quizzes instead. They offer a free quiz tool that journalists can use to create and embed quizzes on their own websites.
- Another idea the team suggests is replacing the “Like” button on stories with a button labeled “Respect,” which their research says is more beneficial and has “both business and democratic implications.” They offer a free plugin to allow news organizations to add a button on their own websites.
- McGregor says non-traditional measurements can help a newsroom gauge its impact on the community. For example, the Chattanooga Times Free Press published a series of stories on poverty; after it published, McGregor and her colleagues analyzed Twitter to see how people in town were talking about the subject. The results showed a significant increase in tweets about poverty in the days after the series published. The researchers also looked at city council minutes to see if the stories had any governmental impact.
- The Engaging News Project has published more than 25 reports and studies from their research on reader engagement, site tools, comment sections and more.
Rachel Wise is an editor at the Futures Lab at the Reynolds Journalism Institute and co-producer of the weekly Futures Lab video update.
The Reynolds Journalism Institute’s Futures Lab video update features a roundup of fresh ideas, techniques and developments to help spark innovation and change in newsrooms across all media platforms. Visit the RJI website for the full archive of Futures Lab videos, or download the iPad app to watch the show wherever you go. You can also sign up to receive email notification of each new episode.