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Global Intelligence for the Digital Transition

Real-time analytics can help you use scarce editorial resources more effectively

The importance of engaging with your audience, whether in person, via social media or through your website, has always been an essential part of journalism. As we noted earlier this week, successful audience engagement also has significant business benefits as research into crowdsourcing projects at the Guardian has shown.

The Guardian example holds two important lessons: Not only can social media and engagement strategies improve audience loyalty, but it’s also important to measure and research how your strategy is performing. One tool to measure audience engagement with your content via social media is real-timeReal-timeEvents that happen “live” at a particular moment. When one chats in a chat…//read more  analytics.  Unlike print or broadcast where audience measurementAudience MeasurementThe counting of unique users (i.e. audience) and their interaction with online…//read more  is slow, sometimes glacially so, the nature of the web allows content creators to monitor the activity of their social media audiences as it happens.  Real-time analytics packages provide key insights into site performance, allowing editors and journalists to understand how audiences are responding to content much more easily.

One real-time analytics service is ChartBeat, which provides news outlets with a real-time dashboard – a simple set of charts and graphs – to see what is happening on their site and what content visitors are sharing with their networks. ChartBeat is a snapshot of what is happening right now, in contrast to other analytics tools which reveal how your audience is growing over time.

NPR, the public radio broadcaster in the US, uses Chartbeat to deliver actionable insights into how their audiences are reacting to their coverage. According to Nathan Bernier at NPR’s, this real-time data gives an understanding of how their audience reacts to the news on a story-by-story basis, rather than having to wait for ratings books every three months. It also allows them to understand immediately how web traffic is affected by any of their news campaigns. Part of the appeal of Chartbeat is its ease of use, according to Steve Mulder, Director of User Experience & Analytics for National Public Radio Digital Services. He said:

[It] has a simple, fun interface that shows you how many users are on your site right now, where they came from, what content they are looking at, and – this is where the magic happens – what they are sharing with others.

Real-time data can allow you to respond more quickly to audience behaviour, but as Tony Haile from ChartBeat told a conference audience recently, “real time data isn’t worth a damn unless you can respond in real time.”

Bernier said that responding to real-time data has helped NPR to “build a more adaptive and flexible organization, and have a sense we’re programming the news with our community at the same time.” is another useful analytics tool. Like ChartBeat, it tracks in real-time how stories are performing on your site and how your content is being shared via social media, but it also tracks content on your competitors’ sites. By tracking social engagement with the news through’s dashboard, journalists and editors can gain a real-time insight into what stories are resonating with their audiences. recently received an investment from the Knight Enterprise Fund as part of the Knight Foundation’s News Challenge that focused on networks. Mohamed Nanabhay is the co-founder of and brings to bear his experience as the head of Al Jazeera English online. During the Arab Spring, he noticed a disconnect between the stories that major websites, including Al Jazeera and The Guardian, were leading with and the stories that were being shared on Twitter and Facebook.

“Newsrooms are stressed for resources. No one has enough journalists to do the stories they want to do. We provide you with metrics that say, this is how you do your stories, this is where you throw your resources in,” Nanabhay said at a recent Knight News Challenge event, adding he wanted to help bring “social clarity to these newsrooms”. Editors and journalists “can look at it and say hey, this is a story we should be writing, this is a story we should be promoting, this is a story we should be repositioning,” he explained.

Of course, with the rise of real-time analytics, traditional web analyticsWeb AnalyticsWeb analytics is the process of measuring, collecting, analyzing and reporting…//read more  providers are moving to add such features to their own services. For instance, Google Analytics has also recently incorporated real-time reporting into its existing service, allowing you to track how many people are on your site, their geographic locations, which sites they have come from, and what pages they are viewing.

There is an obvious advantage in getting access to real-time data for your own site: the ability to see what stories are being shared, commented and tweeted the most right now, giving you a good idea of where you should be putting your resources and how you should position your stories to take advantage of audience interests.  ChartBeat and are examples of easy-to-use data tools that do not require training and are accessible for all editorial staff. Hits, shares, comments and likes are all updated, live, on your dashboard, providing the newsroom with dynamic graphs to easily spot trends and spikes in interest. They give every journalist or editor – with or without expertise in data analysis – the opportunity to easily optimize their editorial decisions, and to improve reachReach1) unique users that visited the site over the course of the reporting period,…//read more , user engagement, and value for online advertisers.

Article by Ulrikke Albertsen

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