Over half of UK tech journalists have changed approach due to Web analytics

Traffic data is increasingly informing technology journalists’ choice of stories and the type of content they include, according to a new study tracking media attitudes and behaviour based on web analytics conducted by Kaizo PR. The study, however, also reveals a large divide in the perceived impact this is having on the industry.

The research collated the views of over 40 journalists across a range of trade and consumer titles that cover the technology sector and follows up on the company’s analytics study conducted in October 2013.  Over half of the participating journalists say they have changed their thinking on story development because of Web analytics, and alongside this, the use of analytics for editorial planning has increased by a quarter over the last two years.

Only 9% of journalists now maintain that they are uninfluenced by analytics – a drop of 16% in just two years.  Over three quarters now have direct access to analytics – a 9% rise, with analysis of story appeal, keyword performance and user behaviour becoming routine tools of the trade.

There are also personal nudges to encourage writers to pay attention to the numbers, as now the majority of journalists (56%) say web analytics plays a role in their appraisals. That’s a rise of 8% since our survey in 2013.  Whether the long tail value of stories is factored into discussions around performance is not clear.

Whilst the figures showed an increase in adoption and influence, there are mixed views about the actual value of use, from vital to misleading.

Example positive comments included:

  • You live and die by analytics for now. They are bound to evolve as the industry goes programmatic or deals with softer revenue models that are not dependent on page views.”
  • “It’s great to be able to get instant market research on stories – why wouldn’t an editor use them?”
  • “Analytics are a vital tool for any modern publisher but overuse can lead to poor journalism and producing stories which won’t interest/cater for your readers”
  • “Everything we write we write for traffic.”
  • “Useful guide to reader engagement but others should be considered for a well-rounded view.”
  • “Valuable…, but not enough to sway the way a story is written at its core.

Whilst others warned on being too led by data rather than journalist skills:

  • “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics. They can be used to prove/disprove just about anything.”
  • “For some editors and journalists it is crucial. For others they should ignore it completely. Analytics improves ROI over the long term, it doesn’t make a good story happen in the short term.”
  • “In the B2B world, analytics can tell you entirely the wrong thing”
  • “Analytics is, along with advertising, something of a necessary evil, which should be kept entirely away from editorial.”
  • “Analytics have changed journalism with keywords interfering with the art of creativity. But there’s almost nothing we can do to change that now.”
  • “Good tech journalism is being killed by sites pumping out SEO-heavy articles at the expense of anything else.”
  • “It’s a useful tool but puts media in danger of producing dull, similar news and features.”

 

Allan Edwards, Associate Director, Kaizo said:

“Clearly there is a mixed attitude to how analytics are influencing the editorial agenda, but whether a valuable tool, necessary evil, or scourge of the art of journalism, there is no denying the impact they have.

“Although the insights are compelling, media are not generally slaves to the data, otherwise every tech story would mention Apple, and every news story Kim Kardashian! That said, there are some clear lessons for anyone in earned media around creating storytelling context that brings in popular searchable themes and issues.

“Whilst this doesn’t mean the death of the press release, it does suggest a change in emphasis, structure and a broader approach to content is required today.”

Key areas to consider:

  • Consider the relevancy of the materials sent to journalists at a deeper level. When offering stories make it clear that we can provide the components that they need to create articles with relevant search value, unique to their outlet.
  • Think clickable – from the subject line of pitch emails, through to quotes, referenced data, images and video. Think like the journalist’s audience.  If you would click to see more about that content, then you are likely making life simpler for journalists, and hence more likely to get covered.
  • Understand that analytics is a double-edged sword – a circular chase for more of the same can lead to a plunge in traffic, so new ideas are still needed to be the next big trend, so keep it fresh – use hints in the data to tell you what’s coming next.

Ends

The research took place in July and August 2015. We invited 200 UK technology journalists to give their views on the use of web analytics. Respondents represented a broad range of technology journalists, including national correspondents and trade writers.

 

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