Web metrics are in widespread use in U.S. newsrooms, and are being used by some newsrooms in evaluating the performance of editors and reporters, a survey of top editors has found.

In a survey conducted among 114 members of the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) last year, one in five respondents reported that they use Web metrics as part of the performance evaluation of their employees.

The survey showed broad use of metrics in newsrooms across the country.

The majority of newsrooms participating in the survey use Web metrics not just to guide placement and presentation of stories on websites, but also in making decisions about news coverage and how reporters are assigned.

Click to enlargeWeb metrics were initially used to guide decisions on story selection and placement. For example, 72 percent said they use Web metrics to decide how prominently to display stories on the website while 62 percent said they use metrics to help them design the website.

But 73 percent said they use metrics information to decide “if we will assign additional stories or coverage.” Sixty-three percent said metrics were useful in helping “determine how to write the headline.”

In 51 percent of the newsrooms that participated in the survey, Web metrics reports are put together by the newsroom staff.

Only 22 percent said their Web metrics report comes from an IT division, while 11 percent said the report comes from the marketing department.

Click to enlargeSome 55 percent monitor Web metrics using software created by a third-party vendor, such as Adobe’s Omniture (Site Catalyst), while 41 percent still depend on free online programs, such as Google Analytics.

The survey participants reported they frequently monitor the number of unique monthly visitors (85 percent) to the site.

The other key performance indicators that the top-level editors monitor include: most read articles (83.6 percent), number of page views (83.2 percent), top pages (82.1 percent), number of visits (80.3 percent), sources of traffic (73.8 percent), and session duration (72.9 percent).

Click to enlargeOf the editors who participated in the survey, most said they had informal training on Web analytics (51.4 percent) while some identified themselves as self-taught. One in four (25 percent) had no training at all.

The participants also had a favorable assessment of how Web analytics are affecting the journalism they produce. Some 90.5 percent said using Web analytics have helped them serve the audience.

Click to enlargeHowever, only 39 percent agreed that Web analytics have made their organizations more profitable.

ASNE members were invited to participate in the survey last year. Only one top-level editor per newsroom was invited to participate in the survey.

The survey results are not generalizable to all online newsrooms in the U.S. But they provide information about the trend of how many newsrooms in the U.S. are using Web analytics in their news work.

Click to enlarge

Michael M. Jenner  
Professor and Houston Harte Chair in Journalism

Edson C. Tandoc Jr.  
Guest blogger


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