Do a keyword search for “metrics” on JournalismJobs.com. Here are a few things that you’ll find:
The Hanover (Pennsylvania) Evening Sun is looking for an “innovative reporter” that can use “metrics to guide coverage decisions throughout the newsroom.”
The NOLA Media Group is searching for a Digital Production Manager that understands SEO, Internet publishing and metrics.
Newsday is on the hunt for an editor who “closely monitors and analyzes metrics, audience data and other media websites,” has a “track record of creating compelling online content and meeting metrics goals” and “knows Omniture, Google Analytics or other metrics platforms.”
As we head into 2017, analyzing and acting on data and audience insights will continue to be one of the challenges facing media organizations. That also means there will be opportunities for new roles, career advancement and the ability to make a real difference for those who understand metrics.
Disconnect between data and execution
There is little doubt metrics are important to newsrooms.
“The last five years, the importance of data has grown to the point it overshadows many other fundamental components of the publishing industry,” the Media Briefing wrote in its State of the Media 2017 report.
@cigelske Yes, especially given that it's one of the top areas of investment for publishers next year. Will need to hire in expertise.
— The Media Briefing (@mediabrief) December 21, 2016
However, monitoring and acting on data are two very different things. That same study found that many newsrooms miss out on opportunities to learn from the data they collect.
“The part to me that was just so interesting, there’s a use of these metrics, but not the second part, testing, learning,” said Talia Stroud, director of the Engaging News Project. “There’s a lot of work to be done to show what the benefits are.”
The Media Briefing echoed this sentiment in its report. In short, newsrooms aren’t doing enough with their data.
“Numbers have always played their part in media management,” the report stated. “But simply counting how many people bought a copy of your latest issue is no longer enough.”
Therein lies the opportunity.
Newsrooms need specialized roles that don’t just monitor data, but can use it to help guide reporters and editorial decisions. These roles need to handle the complex task of gathering data, learning from it, sharing it, training others and making new findings available and easy to digest.
On that front, media organizations have work to do. As we reported in 2016, 41 percent of all newsrooms have an audience engagement person on staff, which include job titles such as audience development director, engagement editor, and community editor.
But there are signs that this number will grow not just with new newsroom hiring, but also with training through universities and media foundations.
What you can do
In a word, prepare.
Forward-looking organizations are training journalists to help inform newsrooms with data. Newsroom are opening their eyes to the fact that metrics mean more than inflating page views. Roles that embrace metrics are helping to show how news organizations can measure a real impact.
For instance, a data and applied math editor job posting from The Conversation says the role will focus on “how big data is transforming science and society” or “how mathematics can help solve social problems.”
In another example, the research associate job description for the Media Impact Project at USC Annenberg’s Norman Lear Center states that the ideal candidate has “a passion for helping media organizations do a better job serving their missions and their audiences.”
If you don’t feel confident in your handle on metrics, you can get training both online and offline. Two new professors specializing in digital media and audience engagement are being hired at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, where there is a focus on new engagement and analytics curricula.
“We recognize that when newsrooms hire journalists, they want candidates who can do more than report, write and shoot good content,” said Jessica Pucci, Professor of Practice, Engagement & Content Analytics at the Cronkite School. “They want candidates who can do all of that AND proactively engage audiences around that content, and measure those audiences and how the content performs.”
For those who accept the challenge of using metrics, get your resume ready. You are needed now more than ever.
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.