The news media’s Big Data (missed) opportunities

Study finds newsrooms don't do much with all the data they collect


Newsrooms talk a big game about data—but nearly all of them are not putting to work the data they collect.

That’s the finding of a survey of news editors and producers conducted by the Engaging News Project at The University of Texas at Austin.

The survey found that 87% of news organizations check digital metrics like page views or unique visitors—but relatively few said they were actually using the data to identify opportunities to grow audience engagement or revenue, the survey concludes.

“The part to me that was just so interesting, there’s a use of these metrics, but not the second part, testing, learning,” Talia Stroud, director of the Engaging News Project, told MediaShift’s Jason Alcorn.

Newspaper-focused newsrooms were the majority—58%--of the 525 newsrooms that responded to the survey. They were also most likely to lag television and digital newsrooms in using such common audience engagement strategies as A/B testing or partnering with researchers.

The Engaging News Project survey asked about two common strategies for improving audience engagement: A/B testing and partnering with researchers.

Here is an excerpt from the survey summary:

Newspaper-focused newsrooms are comparatively less likely to use research and development strategies (i.e., monitor digital metrics, partner with researchers and use A/B testing) than television and website-focused organizations.

Television-focused organizations are more likely to have a mobile-friendly website than newspaper-focused newsrooms.

Although it’s common for newsrooms to respond to their audience in the comment sections on Facebook or Twitter, less than a third have a written policy about how to moderate comment sections.
91% of newspaper-focused and 95% of television-focused newsrooms ask audiences to submit pictures or videos.

Television-focused (67%) and website-focused (51%) newsrooms are more likely to employ individuals to promote audience engagement than newspaper-focused (32%) organizations.

Incentivizing or rewarding performance based on metrics is rare; only 5% of newspaper-focused and 6% of radio-focused organizations do so.