Transparency toolkit: How do we measure success?

by | Jan 14, 2020 | Toolkit

Before launching the projects you’ve decided to pursue, the working group should first decide what metrics will be used to evaluate success. Each newsroom is different, and motivations for engaging in increased transparency and engagement vary. Rather than developing entirely new measures of success — though you may decide to come up with some new metrics for this project — you’ll want to think about the key performance indicators (KPIs) that will best spell success for your organization.

1. Determine what your transparency and engagement goals are.

Do you want to increase the time spent on stories, click-through rates or comments and shares on social media? Do you want to attract new readers? Chances are you are probably hoping to tie your initiative to new revenue opportunities. Ideally, the metrics you choose should coincide with your existing engagement or business goals, but this is also a good opportunity to expand on your current view of engagement success to include measures such as reader behavior and interaction with local news. 

Example: Following a community event the Fresno Bee hosted with Spaceship Media, the Bee asked participants to complete a survey that asked them about the experience and the Bee’s role in convening community. The information helped the Bee assess the community benefits of such a project and offered insight into how engagement can help strengthen the Bee’s reputation in the community.

Tip:  Pursue best practice projects that you can tie to your existing engagement or business goals to increase newsroom buy-in and accountability.

2. Pick a few key metrics to evaluate for each project. 

You may have the impulse to measure every variable and facet of a project, and that’s ok. Collect as much data as you can, but select two or three key metrics that relate to editorial and/or revenue goals on which to focus. It takes time to analyze data in a meaningful way so you don’t want to place unrealistic expectations on how much you’ll evaluate. The goal here is to apply measures that already have meaning in your newsroom to new transparency and engagement projects and to begin to integrate and potentially reimagine how you think about measurement.

Tip:  If possible, pairing generalizable quantitative data with qualitative information that offers insight into themes and motivations creates a well-rounded picture. 

3. Share your results.

Core goals of this process are to help your audience and community better understand your journalistic methods and to invite them into a conversation about the issues in your community. It’s important to keep people updated on what you’re doing and why, what you’re learning along the way and how that is impacting your journalism.

Tip: Explore different formats for sharing your results: writing a column, starting a conversation on social, community forums, etc.