Mirroring Metrics: News and Advertising/Public Relations
Updated: Mar 31
This was written for CAS 839: Media Analytics Communication in the Michigan State University Strategic Communications MA program.
What two things can news professionals can learn from ad/pr?
Bounce and exit rates
News organizations could borrow from the advertising/public relations metrics of bounce rates and exit rates on the digital versions of individual stories. Bounce rates could help news organizations pinpoint gaps in traffic sources, content relevancy, and bad targeting. Exit rates could identify reader drop-off points, where readers left the site entirely, and provide editors with data to study. For example, if readers over time continue to exit the site while reading stories about a certain topic or content areas, then leadership could brainstorm ways to keep people engaged (more graphics, charts, or polls). This process presupposes that editors create a dashboard to include news, sport, features, op/ed, entertainment, et al. to create content areas. Within each area, desk editors could drill down to more specific story types. These examples are the same for the digital channels of newspapers, cable news, and local news sites.
Interactivity and brand sentiment
Additionally, interactivity and brand sentiment are metrics that easily translate to news. Interactivity can be achieved through comments sections could prove helpful to news organizations. Operating in an era of the “citizen journalism”—where consumers of journalism generate their own content—editors should borrow digital interactivity strategies and invite reader to continue the conversation on a blog or on social media (Rogers, 2019, p. 1.). Anyone with a keyboard and computer can offer their opinion or add perspective. So, the idea of an op/ed page could be incorporated into comments sections. This provides a voice for the people and creates a personalized, persuasive forum in which readers feel immersed with the brand—increasing the likelihood for electronic word of mouth and social media sharing and liking. Interactivity and brand sentiment align perfectly in the tried-and-true consumer survey. Editors could create surveys for subscribers and non-subscribers (identified from social media commentors) that ask readers about content preferences, coverage balance, likelihood to read articles to the end, likelihood to recommend the organization, satisfaction with graphics to explain ideas, or many more. The survey not only would help editors gain sentiment, but also update the database based on demographics (gender, age, income, geography, education, married status, education, etc.) and device usage (smartphone, tablet, computer). With these demographics, editors could run queries that match a combination of demographics with content areas.
Staffing and freelancers
I had another thought too, with regards to staffing. Grieco (2020) states that newsrooms are shrinking, and many staff newspaper jobs have shrunk by twenty-three percent between 2009 and 2019. Newspapers could learn from advertising by signing more contract writers and editors. By keeping a list of available freelancers, news organizations could delegate editorial tasks like weekly calendar updates, police blotter research/reporting, and headlines/cutline writing to freelances. This process could free time for staff writers to tackle larger, long-term stories that could create added value to readers and create a competitive advantage for the organization (while avoiding any issues with newspaper unions).
What two things ad/pr professionals can learn from news?
Advertising and public relations professionals can learn and employ a fundamental aspect of news: public service obligations. This can be accomplished through original content and strategic storytelling. People- and personality-focused content can accompany the traditional advertising and public relations campaigns and initiatives; thus, a story promoting a new online therapy service, for example, could also feature a feature on the company CEO or founder explaining mission, vision, and values statements in a personalized way. Advertising and public relations staff can post articles on social media—complete with photos and compelling graphics—and jump to the company website or blog. This increases social media and website analytics and, ideally, encourages audiences to explore more of the website while visiting. Thus, borrowing from a reporter’s natural curiosity, advertising and public relations professionals can employ the WWWWW and H approach to create original, dynamic content with a cohesive, consistent narrative that serves as owned media and as branding material (Da Costa, 2019). Training and education
Some journalists tend to ignore data about their stories—focusing more on interviewing, writing, end editing than on the "tsunami of numbers" surrounding metrics (O'Donovan & Kramer, 2019; Ha, 2020, p. 3). Metrics and analytics, on the other side, typically are the purview and in-house property of the marketing, advertising, and public relations departments. The latter industries could take a page from newspaper leadership and educate/train the entire company about metrics and and analytics. Employees may feel more connected to the company and valued through training, and the company can view this step as an investment in human capital. A constantly updated dashboard could feature prominently on a company's intranet, so everyone in the company can see snapshots of digital performance. Double as team building and morale initiatives, training and education about metrics may encourage staffers to engage more with the brand's social media and website—fostering a culture where metrics-savvy employees are more likely to engage as brand ambassadors.
Da Costa, C. (2019, January 31). 3 reasons why brand storytelling is the future of marketing. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/celinnedacosta/2019/01/31/3-reasons-why-brand-storytelling-is-the-future-of-marketing/?sh=523576a755ff
Grieco, E. (2020, April 20). U.S. newspapers have shed half of their newsroom employees since 2008. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/04/20/u-s-newsroom-employment-has-dropped-by-a-quarter-since-2008/ Ha, A. (2020, June 24).Google updates its analytics tools for newsrooms. TechCrunch. https://techcrunch.com/2020/06/24/google-updates-its-analytics-tools-for-newsrooms
O'Donovan, B., & Kramer, M. (2019, March 13). How to build a metrics-savvy newsroom. American Press Institute.