Metrics For News. The Uses and Effects of Analytics in Journalism




Dr. Kenza Lamot

Postdoctoral researcher
University of Antwerp



Analyst DELab UW

Quali­ty jour­na­lism in the pre­vio­us cen­tu­ry was still con­si­de­red jour­na­lism that har­dly needed to take into acco­unt its audien­ce. Seve­ral deve­lop­ments, such as incre­asing com­mer­cial pres­su­res and advan­cing tech­no­lo­gi­cal and digi­tal capa­bi­li­ties, have bro­ught abo­ut a gre­ater focus on audien­ces. Mean­whi­le, news media have embra­ced the­ir reader­ship and it is wide­ly accep­ted that edi­tors take into acco­unt the inte­re­sts and pre­fe­ren­ces of the­ir audien­ce. Ana­ly­ti­cal tools such as Chart­be­at, Google Ana­ly­tics, and Smar­tOc­to are the­re­fo­re being sold to new­sro­oms to help them bet­ter under­stand the­ir audien­ce and incre­ase „audien­ce enga­ge­ment” with the news.

The dis­ser­ta­tion seeks to inve­sti­ga­te how Fle­mish new­sro­oms use audien­ce ana­ly­tics and what effects this use has on the deci­sion-making jour­na­li­sts make during the news selec­tion pro­cess and on the news sup­ply itself. It wants to exa­mi­ne, among other things, whe­ther the gro­wing atten­tion for click- and reading figu­res could have the down­si­de that the news sup­ply shi­fts towards softer, tri­vial sub­jects that are cate­ring to audien­ce demand. Using vario­us empi­ri­cal methods (in-depth inte­rviews, a survey, an expe­ri­ment, and a con­tent ana­ly­sis), the rese­arch attempts to get a grip on the­se questions.

The results of the dis­ser­ta­tion show that the use of ana­ly­tics is com­mon and wide­spre­ad among Fle­mish new­sro­oms. Ana­ly­tics are used for abo­ut six prac­ti­ces, inc­lu­ding con­tent opti­mi­za­tion such as the pla­ce­ment or pre­sen­ta­tion of an artic­le. Howe­ver, digi­tal edi­tors indi­ca­te that jour­na­li­sts» gut feelings and know­led­ge would always pre­va­il when edi­to­rial cho­ices are made. Indi­vi­du­al jour­na­li­sts are also fami­liar with the use of tho­se ana­ly­tics, altho­ugh often indi­rec­tly thro­ugh com­mu­ni­ca­tion from the­ir edi­tors. It is rather the youn­ger jour­na­li­sts who use tho­se ana­ly­tics on the­ir own and who adopt the same posi­ti­ve mind­set of the­ir edi­tors. Even tho­ugh the use of ana­ly­tics is nuan­ced in both stu­dies, more in-depth ana­ly­ses of the effects of ana­ly­tics reve­al that ana­ly­tics pri­ma­ri­ly dri­ve the selec­tion of „softer” news. Ana­ly­tics had an effect on the pla­ce­ment of soft new headli­nes and Face­bo­ok selec­tion is also more like­ly to dri­ve softer con­tent based on analytics.In short, the pre­sen­ta­tion pro­vi­des a nuan­ced pic­tu­re of the dif­fe­rent effects and uses of ana­ly­tics. Jour­na­li­sts seem to be sear­ching for a mid­dle gro­und that tries to recon­ci­le com­mer­cial and jour­na­li­stic moti­ves witho­ut com­pro­mi­sing on quali­ty, the thin line they have been balan­cing on for decades.

A series of Polish-language meetings during which researchers and guest speakers look at issues related to digital transformation, new technologies, innovation and digital research methods.

The aim of the "Digitisation under the closer look of science" seminars is to build cooperation between academia, the public sector and business. Scientists share their research findings and have the opportunity to discuss them with experts. The results of their work are available on the DELab UW website.

University of Antwerp
University of Antwerp
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