Twitter was abuzz late last week with folk sharing a link to an article written by a former editor of the New Atlantic in which he concluded that journalism was essentially being killed by audience data.
As entertaining as it might have been, and judging by the volume of Tweets it got it clearly captured a certain mood, it’s also a thoroughly dangerous view of the world which, if adopted, actually takes away the very tool which has the ability to make journalism stronger in the future.
Chris Moran, who has evangelised the Guardian’s transformation into an organisation which pays attention to audience data and has grown and developed as a result of doing so, has written a superb response which covers many areas.
Moran is bang on the money when he says it’s not enough to just have audience data – you need to have the culture which uses it correctly. If you are a journalist who thinks journalism is being harmed by audience data, then it’s a safe bet that either you, or your newsroom, is using it the wrong way.
It’s not what you know, but what you do with it
Journalism’s online financial model is pretty much driven by the number of ads on a page. So the logic does follow that the more page views you generate, the more money you earn.
But the sustainability of driving page views – which in itself is no bad thing, despite the tut-tutting you’ll often here about such pursuits – will be determined by how the reader feels once they’ve experienced your brand.
Trick a reader into a story which isn’t reflected by the headline, make it too hard to get to the content, push too many ads at them and they won’t come back.
If, on the other hand, you look at the audience data and ask yourself which metrics tell you the reader is satisfied by what they’re getting from you, and where you can improve, you’re actually putting the reader at the heart of what you do – and that’s the most important step we can take to support journalism in the future.