Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Online News and Engagement

A new study of "digital-first" news sites showed that while most are using social media to better engage with their readers, most are finding it difficult to get the numbers they need to see if their efforts are helping.  The study found that there were four general engagement strategies identified -

  • engagement as outreach - notifying users of news and sending them to the main site
  • engagement as reaction - inviting users to comment on or share news stories
  • engagement as civic participation - notifying users of opportunities to address community issues
  • engagement as stakeholder participation - soliciting stories, funds, etc. from users
While almost all sites reported using some metrics to track their audiences, these were mostly limited to basic online metrics such as page views and site visitor counts, reported numbers of Facebook fans and Twitter followers, and the number of comments left on the site or on Facebook.  While all are indicators of audience size, they're not terribly useful in terms of tracking engagement, much less whether their social media efforts are enhancing engagement.
  The report also includes some examples of engagement efforts reported by survey respondents, and makes several sets of recommendations, including better definitions and measures of engagement, and greater support for engagement activities by news sites (hopefully supported by greater emphasis on engagement in j-schools, and monetary support for these efforts from "funders")/
  The survey sample was not random, limiting the ability to extrapolate results.  Still, most of the sites participating identified their focus as local or hyperlocal, followed by a focus on coverage topics.  Audience traffic for the responding sites was generally small, with about a third reporting less than 10,000 unique visitors a month, a third between 10,000 and 50,000, and a third having more than 50,000.

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