Running the numbers

Tom Chester VCCWe journalist types typically eschew focus groups and market research about news coverage, saying we know what a news story is and we don't need no stinkin' survey to figure it out. But we are learning to measure ... and are finding it useful even if we put away our pica poles long ago.

In an excerpt from his forthcoming book Journalism Next, Mark Briggs has this about the News Sentinel's Tom Chester:

Tom Chester, news operations manager at the News-Sentinel, begins each weekday with a stand-up meeting in the newsroom. The first item on the agenda is a detailed report of content published and traffic generated the previous day. "We track updates on all platforms: web, mobile, email," Chester said. "We started with almost nothing and now we're up to about 500 updates per week."

If newsroom leaders had simply announced at a staff meeting the need to learn new skills and publish more frequently to more platforms, little progress would have been made. Instead, the formerly print-centric newsroom - which has also published 3,000 videos since 2006 - has the structure in place to measure and manage the new content, the newsroom was able to show significant progress and build upon its successes.
Briggs succinctly calls this: "Track. Measure. Adapt."

Measuring has become both a significant part of our newsroom culture and a significant driver for effecting change.

(News Sentinel photo by J. Miles Cary of Tom Chester putting up stats on our Visual Communication Center.)