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And you know what? I have no idea whether my numbers on those services are good or not. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do about them. In fact, though I love Chartbeat, the information that I get from them that means the most is their push notifications on my phone which tell me when my site is over its maximum monthly number of visitors. That is meaningful.

Insights like exceeding my usual level of visitors, or achieving some threshold I’d never crossed before, or doing some task particularly efficiently would be meaningful markers that I could respond to intelligently.

Anil Dash — All Dashboards Should be Feeds

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Currently, works of journalism (articles, videos, galleries, graphics, etc.) no matter what subject (news, sports, entertainment, business, features, investigations, etc.) are quantitatively measured the same. An investigative piece that might be nowhere near as popular in pageviews across a mass audience (yes, sometimes, they can be) is quantitatively measured the same way a celebrity death story is. Either story could make a sensational splash, truly connect emotionally with readers, or both. Each has value, but there are different kinds of values across different subjects journalists cover.

If we value impactful accountability journalism, why are we quantitatively equating it one-to-one to entertainingly impactful news? For example, when an investigation is published that saves taxpayer money or even human lives, we should instead try to measure these in a more multi-dimensional way — instead of merely the simplistic ones — and measure them differently from journalism works that have different goals. We should do this not just because the quantification would be more accurate (again, still imperfect), but because it would be a better model of the complex real-world response.

Greg Linch — Quantifying impact: A better metric for measuring journalism.

Questions publishers want answered

Short list of questions publishers want answered that I believe could be answered with the right data:

  • Who are my best writers?
  • What topics are my audience most engaged in?
  • Which types of pieces do best over time?
  • What type of stories should I have my writers work on?
  • When is the best time to publish?
  • What’s the best length for a piece?
  • Does including rich media help with engagement?
  • Do my writers actually need to include links? How many?

What am I missing?

Obviously most publishers know most of these by heart, it’s key to running a successful business. What’s more interesting is to use this type of data as a baseline for experimentation.

It’s important to remember the difference between creation and optimization, and how data can be used for each.