journalists turn to 7-part mathematical formula to gauge online readership [no, seriously]

In Uncategorized on October 26, 2010 at 5:49 pm

Finally, news of an “engagement index” devoid of ludicrously overpriced gowns, ludicrously overpriced food and cake, and ludicrously scratchy and uncomfortable rent-a-tuxes: Philly.com has a whole new way of measuring online readers’ interest. Well, maybe “a whole new way” is a slight exaggeration, so let’s instead call it “a way using scary-looking math that at first glance may send scads of arithmophobic reporters scrambling for cover.”

As reported by The Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard, Philly.com, the website of both the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News, has (correctly) gone beyond the established wisdom of Page Views Above All Else with a seven-part formula — Σ(Ci + Di + Ri + Li + Bi + Ii + Pi) — that breaks down into the following elements (coding via The Nieman Lab’s site):

C — Click Index: visits must have at least 6 pageviews, not counting photo galleries

D — Duration Index: visits must have spend a minimum of 5 minutes on the site

R — Recency Index: visits that return daily

L — Loyalty Index: visits that either are registered at the site or visit it at least three times a week

B — Brand Index: visits that come directly to the site by either bookmark or directly typing http://www.philly.com or come through search engines with keywords like “philly.com” or “inquirer”

I — Interaction Index: visits that interact with the site via commenting, forums, etc.

P — Participation Index: visits that participate on the site via sharing, uploading pics, stories, videos, etc.

With less of an emphasis placed merely on acquiring clicks—hopefully resulting in fewer inane and news-less slideshows cobbled together simply to satisfy Click Lust—complex equations such as this one could lead to a greater value being placed on producing actual journalism and not simply “content.”

Pro: This will help media companies—the ones smart enough to care—better understand their readership.

Con: Not every newspaper or TV station can afford a full-time Web analyst.

More from The Nieman Lab piece:

Tracking site visits with this level of specificity is time-consuming — [Senior Data Analyst Chris] Meares says he devotes about a third of his full-time job to analysis of the engagement equation — but it has produced some interesting information. For instance: “We’re definitely seeing the impact of social media and how it provides engaged visitors.” While Google and Yahoo provide a lot of traffic, the visits that they send to Philly.com don’t tend to be engaged. Only 20.34 percent of visits that come through Google are engaged visits. In comparison, 33.64 percent of visits that come via Facebook are engaged.

Getting journalists to embrace math? Not impossible. Getting those who employ journalists to see the value in paying people to do more math? Well …


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