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Toward meaningful metrics for local online news sites – Joe Murphy

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Toward meaningful metrics for local online news sites

Pageviews are easy. Visits are easy too. Bounce rates, return visits, time on site, return frequency, all pretty easy. Taken in the big picture they’re okay measurements, though what’s easy to measure isn’t usually what’s useful to measure.

More meaningful metrics would translate visitor interest, disinterest and loyalty into numbers that can be viewed as a whole and within the context of particular site content types, classifications or products (home page, article page, sections, photos, photo galleries, data ghettoes, etc.).

Even more meaningful metrics would measure all of the above among visitors from the particular local news site’s circulation area. In the case of my employer, that’s specifically Denver, and generally Colorado. Forty percent of our site visitors come from Colorado, and that number’s rising, which is good. But those numbers don’t tell what the churn rate is, or what percentage of our Colorado visitors are repeat-daily visitors, or how the repeat-daily number has changed over time.

This is an incomplete list of meaningful metrics for a local online news site, written in the context of a Denver Colorado online news site:

  • What non-branded search terms are Coloradans using to find our site content? Once they come, who stays for a second click, and what search terms result in the most second-clicks? What search terms result in the fewest second-clicks?
  • What’s the return frequency of Coloradans? Among Denver residents? Among Aurora residents? How has that number changed over time?
  • Which sections (news / sports / business / entertainment) have the highest percentage of visits from Coloradans? Are any sections declining in that number? Is that decline a seasonal issue or is it longer lasting?
  • What’s the bounce rate among visitors who enter at articles? Does that change based on the section the article’s in? Does that change based on whether it’s a Colorado visitor? How has that rate changed over time?
  • What’s your homepage bounce rate among visitors who arrived at your homepage for the first time today? What’s the rate among visitors who have already visited your homepage today? How does that number change over time?
  • This is something that is more difficult to measure: How many readers make it to the end of an article? Some javascript that hooks into the y-position of the last paragraph and measures that against the scroll of the window would be necessary to get into this metric, and even then it wouldn’t be wholly accurate (the bigger the browser window, the shorter the article, the less accuracy)

Note: All of these metrics, and any metrics at all, become much more useful when keeping a site log of incidents (breaking news, special projects) and site changes.

Got any more metrics to add? Share ‘em below.

Posted in News Orgs, Practice. Tagged with , , , , .

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