“What I have noticed is that if you are working in a big organisation or at a traditional type of broadcaster or if you are backed by TV or newspapers, it does take a little bit of cultural shift to get people to understand numbers and what numbers really matter,” said Dogramaci, speaking at WAN-IFRA’s 12-part webinar series in association with the Meta Journalism Project.
This is because a lot of media houses follow the “newspaper or TV model,” which mainly looks at the number of readers/viewers or the number of pages printed, she said.
Dogramaci’s approach to audience engagement is heavily anchored in data, understanding what it means and using it in making editorial and strategic decisions.
Which figures to focus on
So what are the numbers that digital publishers need to focus on?
“How long are people spending on the site? What is the retention rate? And how many minutes are being viewed? What is the interaction rate? What percentage of your audience is actually engaging with your content, and so on,” Dogramaci said.
It is also useful to dig deeper and find out what kind of engagement one is getting.
“Is it just a click? Are they sharing your content? Are they commenting, which means more time spent on your content? This is the number I really pay attention to and focus on,” Dogramaci said.
As a digital strategist and editor on her own for several years, Dogramaci said she did two key things with publishers she worked with.
- Deconstructing the fear around data:
“A lot of journalists don’t understand data. When you give them a spreadsheet that contains a million of things, they look at it and feel they don’t know what they are doing or what it means,” she said.
Therefore, she tries to deconstruct this fear around numbers.
“I try to point out what are the things or actions we can achieve with these numbers and get people really comfortable with data,” she said.
- Understanding data on a long-term basis:
Publishers could use different tools to understand what type of formats of content works better. The next step is to start analysing things with a long term view of this data and find out what type of content works best in those formats.
“For example, last year a lot of publishers were doing a lot of COVID stories. Then we found people don’t really like COVID stories, but they are interested in things like what kind of economic assistance they can get, where they can get vaccinated and so on,” Dogramaci explained.
“We can use data in order to build it back into audience engagement and basically make people interact with your content,” she added.
Adding context to data
Dogramaci, who has worked with around 30 publishers during the past two years, said the COVID effect has worked in both ways for publishers.
“We saw an initial pickup on video products as people were stuck at home and they didn’t have a lot to do,” Dogramaci said.
A Georgia-based publisher that she worked with saw quite healthy numbers in the first three-four months of the pandemic period. Then the numbers just dropped.
“We were trying to understand what was going on, and we couldn’t get answers from the data. But we got answers from the context,” she said.
Having gone through a rough stretch of pandemic, by the time summer came around, all people wanted was to go outside. This meant users were no longer sitting at home and engaging with the news products, Dogramaci said.
“Sometimes data doesn’t answer all your questions; it is going to bring up other questions for you. Then, context helps,” she said.