We asked 10 experts in media metrics to tell us what they expected to see in 2018 (including several of our MetricShift20 honorees). The answers are at once sanguine about the direction of media metrics and frank in their assessment of what needs to change.
From podcasts and VR to advertising and loyalty, here are ten storylines to watch in media metrics in 2018 and beyond.
A Content Renaissance Is Coming
By John Saroff
If you build it, they will come.
Realizing that users arriving to a site via search and social are largely ephemeral (returning only 1.2 times a month), the strongest publishers will reinvest in distinct identities across their owned platforms (i.e., desktop web, mobile web, app) where users are approximately three more likely to return.
On the content side, this realization will drive investment in distinct editorial and brand identities that truly resonate with their unique audiences. On the revenue side, this move will succeed in winning consumer revenue, largely in the form of subscriptions, as consumers eagerly open their wallets for stories, videos, and podcasts they find personally meaningful.
For all of us, this will drive a continued renaissance in high-quality content, as publishers realize that the surest way to business success is editorial success.
John Saroff is CEO of Chartbeat.
It’s All About Cross-Device Measurement
By Ian Gibbs
2018 has to be all about nailing cross device measurement. According to Global Web Index, consumers own 3.2 connected devices on average globally, yet consumers don’t think about platforms when they consume content — they think about utility and convenience, which is why media measurement needs to be platform neutral. The deployment of device IDs in measurement reveals a wealth of data riches to publishers. More persistent than cookies and potentially more compliant to e-privacy laws, using device graphs to link multiple devices to a single user really bring media measurement to life.
Audience verification; cross device media impact; linkage to location based data or sales based data sets and CRM systems are all applications of device IDs that will contribute to a richer understand of media consumption and impact. Concerns remain about the accuracy of probabilistic attribution of device IDs vs deterministic attribution — but with only the largest of the digital platforms (Facebook, Google and Amazon) having truly scalable deterministic data, the pressure will be on the rest of the publishing and ad tech world to find an accurate a solution as possible to linking users to devices.
Ian Gibbs is the founder of Data Stories.
We Will Measure Emotional Responses to Media
By Jessica Clark
Tear-o-meters and awe trackers: Up until now, the conversation around media impact has focused on reaction and action — what can we understand about how people are consuming information, and what they do next as a result? Quantitative metrics such as reach, time on site and shares are being combined in ever-more sophisticated ways to trace the influence of particular stories, films, or digital projects.
But while these methods might tell us what the effect of media is, they don’t give much insight into affect — that is, the immediate physical and emotional response that powerful media experiences can evoke.
In 2018, I predict that new technologies will enable makers to record and analyze emotional responses to media with ever-greater precision. Imagine if the latest VR or AR rig contains not only sophisticated motion sensors to mirror head movement, but moisture sensors to detect tears? The latest iPhones can already map your face and customize “animoji” to match — what’s to stop them from recording your expressions of horror or awe and serving up related content accordingly? Wearables offer another monitoring point — could a racing pulse be correlated to watching a particular point in a narrative, and then fed back to creators to inform future productions?
The Impact Pack card deck I created includes a suit of “individual responses” to help media makers think through how audience members’ emotions might lead to various outcomes. But like all of the impact tools I’ve worked on, these concepts can be used for good or ill. Sure, it’s great to think about how powerful investigative reporting or intimate social documentary might move audiences to positive social action. But in the future, large corporations might be mining your subjective experiences to sell you more of the same. And how does that make you feel?
Jessica Clark is the founder and director of Dot Connector Studio.
The Homepage Makes a Comeback
By Nicole Blanchett Neheli
With the advent of more people arriving at news sites via social media and search, the imminent death of the homepage is a common refrain. One senior digital manager told me he was expecting the “death of the homepage revolution” to hit his market at some point. He might be in for a long wait.
Based on my research at newsrooms in three different countries, as well as the latest research from Chartbeat, the death of the homepage, to paraphrase Mark Twain, is much exaggerated. At Norway’s public broadcaster, NRK, having a story on the homepage can make the difference between 300 and 300,000 pageviews. The homepage is even more important in terms of article reach at digital giant VG, which 55 percent of the country’s population accesses weekly. At The Hamilton Spectator, a local newspaper in Canada, and The Bournemouth Daily Echo, a local paper in England, multiple employees point to getting a story on the homepage to promote reach and pageviews. At both organizations, the majority of the audience connects to content through the homepage.
Perhaps most importantly, loyal readers spend more of their total time on homepages and section fronts than they do on article pages, according to research from Chartbeat. These loyal readers come back frequently to scan for what’s new, snacking on stories. While only about one-quarter of these loyal readers pay for content, if you can identify these homepage regulars, it’s a strong bet they can be converted to subscribers. With growing understanding that reaching a significant scale of audience alone can’t guarantee revenue, concentrating on building and retaining a loyal audience versus fly-by readers seems like a logical pivot. So, here’s to the homepage comeback in 2018.
Nicole Blanchett Neheli is a professor at Sheridan College.
Vanity Metrics Cede to Transparency
By Matt Rizzetta
In 2018 vanity metrics will give way to impact metrics, with publishers and advertisers having a level of transparency into the specific interests, behaviors, and actions of their media consumers like never before. As a result, expect the experience between reader and publisher to be more personalized and intimate than we’ve seen in previous years. Publishers will know more about their readers before, during and after their media is being consumed. This will create an environment that demands customization in the media experience, and will open the door for measurement metrics that point toward impact and actions rather than awareness. There are no longer excuses for publishers to deliver an off-topic, irrelevant and unmeasurable content experience to their consumers.
As a result, standards for measurement will change for every stakeholder in the media ecosystem. Publishers will be forced to deliver content experiences to their consumers that are more customized, targeted and nuanced than ever before. Advertisers will be forced to deliver offerings within this content that speak directly to the interests of the consumers with specific calls to action. And the consumer will demand a synergy between content and commerce in their reading or viewing experience, and will cut their losses quickly if they come across publishers and advertisers who don’t demonstrate an ability to execute on this.
Matt Rizzetta is president and CEO of North 6th Agency.
Do You — Really, Fully — Understand Your Data?
By Gabriele Boland
In 2018, fully understanding the data around your content will be a prerequisite to success. More and more, publishers and brands are using data to help personalize their content and for different audiences on social. As these walled gardens provide users exactly what they want to see, content creators are going to need to become savvier about what how they’re packaging their content, and how their message will drive different actions — like shares, likes, retweets, etc.
Gabriele Boland is manager of content strategy and communications at NewsWhip.
Journalism Will Recognize Its Own Potential
By Lindsay Green-Barber
There are two debates in journalism on course for a collision this year.
The first frets about “fake news” — it’s money-making capacity, the assumed lack of news literacy among the public, and, more than anything, its impact (on the election, polarization, public opinion, and the list goes on). A second continues about how — and whether — journalistic organizations measure the impact of their work. This debate exists because of the premise that journalists and journalism are neutral arbiters of information delivering the “truth” to audiences. Under this view of neutrality and truth, journalism ultimately impacts individuals, communities and politics, but only as a byproduct and not something for which the journalistic organizations are necessarily responsible.
In 2018, rather than write off “fake news,” journalistic organizations doing high-quality, deep reporting aiming to uncover truth and empower communities and individuals across the country must take a step back. They must face the question of why organizations that provide misinformation have loyal followings, trusted readers and real world, albeit disastrous, impact. Early research suggests that “fake news” is successful not because people can’t tell the difference between what is “true” and what is “fake” (although that is certainly a challenge), but instead that individuals feel that articles and sites spreading misinformation represent their perspectives and interests in a media landscape where their voices are missing.
Journalism will, I hope, come to grips with this reality. As journalists and people who care about journalism, we ought to embrace its impact — both positive and negative — and begin to develop strategies in service of positive change among audiences, communities and institutions. This will require a questioning of the underlying tenets of journalism: What is neutrality? What is truth? To whom are journalists accountable? And how can we beat “fake news” at their own game?
Lindsay Green-Barber is founder of The Impact Architects.
Podcast Metrics Won’t Change Much
By Thomas Mancusi
With the much-anticipated release of Apple’s podcast analytics having finally arrived, most people expect drastic industry changes to affect podcast creators and advertisers. The app now provides more insight into listener behavior than ever before and offers useful information for brands. But like the medium itself, podcast advertising is still evolving. While the business will inevitably change with new standardization and analytics, it won’t change much. Already successful relationships between advertisers and content creators will stay that way.
That’s because many podcast advertisers already have ways of measuring success which will continue, but with the added insights that Apple will provide. The new knowledge will change some ad formats and placements and lead to a refinement of campaigns rather than a loss of interest in conducting them.
Undoubtedly Apple Podcasts will continue to be the platform where most podcast listeners find the shows they love. But for listeners who don’t own Apple products, including the growing number of households with smart speakers like Google Home, there will be new choices from distribution platforms like iHeartRadio, Spotify, Deezer and Castbox. We will see more of a shift towards these platforms and streaming services particularly outside of the U.S.
This is exciting. We still won’t be able to define a download, and that’s ok. With every different app or platform comes a different way of defining and reporting what constitutes not only a download, but also a listen, a unique and meaningful impression. Will advertisers lose interest as a result? It hasn’t happened so far. Advertisers like what they see in terms of trackable engagement. While standardization and increased metrics and analytics will provide a broader picture of podcast listening habits, advertisers have already seen success with podcasts and will continue to do so through 2018 and beyond.
Thomas Mancusi is VP of sales and development at audioBoom.
We’ll Measure The Value of a Reader
By Anjanette Delgado
We’ll be talking more about the value of a reader and less about volume metrics in 2018. Growth and scale will still matter because of programmatic and other advertising, but media companies need to diversify revenue streams and that will make journalists think more about our audience as customers. Which readers are loyal and to what? What convinces them to come back often, to support our mission of public good, to sign up for emails, to show up for discussions?
Journalists will appreciate this focus because we’re not good discount salespeople, but are committed to serving the mission, which breeds loyalty among readers when done right. Impact tracking, a growing field and one to which my colleagues and I are committed, aligns with this emphasis on loyalty and serving the public good.
First, though, we may need to upgrade our toolbox or combine our databases. Can you actually tell one reader from another in terms of their investment right now? Can you see which of your newsletter subscribers are digital subscribers, donors or members? If it’s not easy for people to sign up, sign in and pay you using their mobile phones, is that on your to-do list? A good user experience is critical for conversion and retention, and it rewards our power users.
Once we truly know the value of a reader, the strategy opportunities beyond pure scale open wide.
Anjanette Delgado is the digital director and head of audience for lohud.com and poughkeepsiejournal.com.
Metrics Matter for Democracy
By Simon Galperin
Traffic from Facebook for major publishers will decrease across the board. Medium’s claps won’t take off. News organizations will focus more on membership and subscription as platforms like Facebook and Apple News try to facilitate conversion and Kickstarter pushes Drip, its Patreon competitor. Blendle and Scroll will try to monetize the more flyby audiences.
Crowdsourcing revenue and journalism give communities a bigger say in what news outlets do. Organizations like GroundSource, Coral Project, Hearken, Spaceship Media, and The Correspondent will lead the way. Unfortunately, too many of the same people in the same legacy news organizations will be deciding what metrics matter, so they will resist this change, leading to underperformance, layoffs, and consolidation. Their investors will continue to push for scale to support ad-driven business models. The stars we already know will continue to push for change. New ones will make their names known.
Political intrigue a la Trump will continue to drive traffic and views and keep Twitter’s marketing executives happy. Hate speech will continue to be given the benefit of the doubt.
In some local communities, community media entrepreneurs will see varying degrees of success, emulating organizations like WhereByUs, Spirited Media, Berkeleyside, and City Bureau. Existing local and hyperlocal publishers will see a bump if they take advantage of Facebook’s new focus on groups. Everyone will continue to learn that platforms are not their friend. New organizations and tactics will emerge as layoffs continue, including worker cooperatives, the community information district model, and the Free Press-supported Civic Information Consortium fund.
Democracy will continue to be hip and in demand. Allies will propagate it. Detractors will continue to prevent its spread.
Simon Galperin is a community engagement and business development consultant.