US newsrooms evaluating reporters based on story clicks?

By Mike Jenner & Edson C. Tandoc Jr.
Missouri School of Journalism

Poster presented during the ICA conference in London.

Poster presented during the ICA conference in London.

 

An increasing number of online newsrooms in the US have started using web metrics to determine if their editors and reporters are doing well, a survey of top-level news editors found.

In a survey conducted among 114 members of the American Society of News Editors (ASNE), some 21 percent reported that they use web metrics as part of the performance evaluation of their employees.

This reflects the increasing impact of how newsrooms in the country are using web metrics in their news work, based on the results of the web-based survey conducted last year.

The same survey found that more and more newsrooms are using web metrics to guide editorial decisions, such as planning coverage and deploying resources.

Web metrics were initially used to guide decisions on story selection and placement. For example, some 72 percent said they use web metrics to decide how prominently to display stories on the website while some 62 percent said they use metrics to help them design the website.

But some 73 percent said they use metrics information to decide “if we will assign additional stories or coverage,” while some 63 percent said metrics were useful in helping “determine how to write the headline.”

A possible explanation to this increasing impact of web metrics on editorial decisions is that in 51 percent of the newsrooms which participated in the survey, web metrics reports are put together by the newsroom staff.

Some 51% said their editorial staff monitors web metrics for the newsroom.

Some 51% said their editorial staff monitors web metrics for the newsroom.

Only 22 percent said their web metrics report comes from an IT division, while some 11 percent said the report comes from the marketing department.

The survey results are not generalizable to all online newsrooms in the US.

ASNE members were invited to participate in the survey last year, but only 114 completed the survey.

The results, however, provide information about the trend of how many newsrooms in the US are using web analytics in their news work.

Only one top-level editor per newsroom was invited to participate in the survey.

The survey participants reported they mainly monitor the number of unique visitors (85 percent) to the site.

The other key performance indicators that the top-level editors monitor include: most read articles (83.6 percent), number of page views (83.2 percent), top pages (82.1 percent), number of visits (80.3 percent), sources of traffic (73.8 percent), and session duration (72.9 percent).

Some 55 percent monitor web metrics using software created by a third-party vendor, such as Adobe’s Omniture (Site Catalyst) while some 41 percent still depend on free online programs, such as Google Analytics.

Of the news editors who participated in the survey, majority claimed to have had informal training on web analytics (51.4 percent) while some claimed to have self-taught knowledge or no training at all (25 percent).

A paper based on this survey was presented at the International Communication Association conference in London in June.

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