Success for a news organisation in today’s highly-competitive, highly-digital news landscape is increasingly dependent not only on having top quality content but also in presenting this to audiences in the most effective way – in the most compelling format, via the right device, at the right time. Raju Narisetti, head of The Wall Street Journal Digital Network, and former managing editor of The Washington Post, is well aware of this. (The network includes WSJ.com, MarketWatch.com, the language editions of WSJ.com, WSJLive Video platforms, and WSJ and MarketWatch Radio Networks.)
Ahead of a webinar on Wednesday, 16 January, which will feature a range of participants discussing the newsroom of the future, we asked Narisetti a few questions about the role of metrics and other top concerns for editors and newsroom managers today.
WAN-IFRA: How significant a role do metrics/analytics play in your day-to-day job?
Narisetti: My day often begins with a quick overview of several analytics reports that provide a recap of the past 24 hours on our digital assets and which are emailed to scores of key staffers in the Journal newsroom. In addition to giving an understanding of past audience behavior, most of these reports also provide goals for the next 24 hours and also give a sense of how we are faring in terms of month-ago and year-ago trends. My intra-day work view of WSJ.com is almost always through a Chartbeat overlay, showing current audience behavior on the site. Because much of what I do day-to-day is not conventional journalism (as in editing or writing), I am not personally using the analytics to incrementally drive changes—that function is handled by our web editors. Defining success in terms of audience metrics and measuring against that is now simply part of how I do what I do.
WAN-IFRA: Do metrics (and services which channel them to dictate layout) signal the end of the editor’s role in curation?
Narisetti: Metrics are useful gut checks on how our decisions are faring but audiences come to WSJ for the quality of our journalism, our ability to help them navigate through an increasingly complex, crowded and confusing world of over-information and it is our job to hold their hands with engaging and entertaining news and information. Metrics don’t alter the fundamental reason audiences come to us or the value of our news and story display judgment. It is up to editors to understand why and how their best journalism is engaging audiences, and metrics are helpful in figuring out ways to make it more so.
WAN-IFRA: You said in a recent Nieman Lab post that “Mobile first” should become a newsroom mantra – does this call for a major restructuring of newsroom workflow? Are you moving this way at the WSJ network?
Narisetti: It calls for a major rethinking of where mobile fits in. In most newsrooms, what shows up on your mobile is often automatic and feed-based with some manual curation of the home screen and other section “fronts.” It is rare that the idea that “a growing number of readers will only experience your journalism through a 3-5-7 inch screens” is factored into the beginning of our journalistic process. With almost a third of all WSJ visitors each month now coming to our digital content via mobile devices — phones and tablets — our newsroom will need to significantly rethink how our digital resources and energies are allocated. Responsive Design strategies will help but, over time, the mobile prism will become the prism through which we need to look at audience growth and engagement.
WAN-IFRA: You have said that creating the best experiences can be almost as important as creating the best content, and that integrating technology and content is key. What are some practical steps that news organisations can take to do this?
1. Acknowledge in the newsroom that just focusing on having and publishing great content in itself is not a long-term and sustainable competitive advantage.
2. Start conversations around how do we want our readers to experience this journalism—start with 6-12 major projects for the year.
3. Bring relevant tech and newsroom resources to brainstorm with success defined in engagement terms (pvs/visit, shares, may be time spent, if it is a relevant and accurate measure, repeat visits, first-time visitors)
There are more profound steps to take that could involve rethinking where technology and content meets in your company, how that interaction is structured in terms of roles and responsibilities but that can come in time depending on the maturity of your news leadership on this issue.
WAN-IFRA: What are your other top priorities for the newsrooms you deal with?
Narisetti: My simple goal in my job for the past year has been to say that I want us to “get more people to consume more Journal content, profitably.” If you spend time thinking about each of those elements, there are plenty of very concrete priorities that emerge.
Hear more from Raju Narisetti about the role of metrics and the newsroom of the future during Wednesday’s Newsplex Webinar.