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Three ways the Hub is better exploring and utilizing data for clients

By Katie Hawkins-Gaar

Sophie Ho has had a busy three months. Since joining the News Revenue Hub on April 18 as their first-ever senior newsroom growth expert, Ho has been hard at work getting to know Hub clients, diving deep into their data, and helping them develop high-level growth strategies.

“It’s exactly the type of work I want to be doing,” said Ho, who previously held data, analytics and product strategy roles at The Washington Post and Google. “It’s incredibly fulfilling to focus on mission-driven journalism with so many amazing newsrooms that are dedicated to serving and reflecting their communities.”

Ho is just one member of the Hub team dedicated to better exploring and utilizing data with newsroom clients. Through its trove of internal and external data, the Hub is dedicated to providing the most robust comparisons across newsrooms as well as delivering the best insights in how to increase audience loyalty across platforms to drive growth and memberships.

“We feel very strongly that the data we’re collecting from our 70-plus newsroom clients contains so many insights, answers and solutions to a lot of the problems that newsrooms across the country are grappling with,” said Mary Walter-Brown, founder and chief executive officer of the News Revenue Hub. “We want to make sure that our database can be used to glean important insights and that we can actualize and operationalize those insights.”

Walter-Brown identified three key areas that the Hub is focusing their data-driven efforts: deeper traffic analyses for clients, a robust Key Performance Indicator (KPI) overhaul, and a soon-to-be developed initiative called Mission-Driven Metrics.

In-depth traffic audits 

One of Ho’s first assignments at the Hub was to start working on comprehensive traffic analyses for select Hub newsrooms. By analyzing data from the past six months to a year, Ho is able to identify themes and strategies for newsrooms trying to understand who their readers are, where they are coming from, and what types of topics and coverage they are engaging with. From there, the Hub makes recommendations on where newsrooms can invest or refocus more time and resources, potential beats to explore, and new ways to engage with readers.

“These analyses take a lot of dedicated time,” said Ho, explaining that she’s spent at least 20 hours per newsroom diving into their metrics. “A newsroom might not otherwise have that opportunity to step back and view their work in a different way.”

Ho shared that this kind of in-depth analysis reveals details that are hard to identify with real-time analytics tools. “We’re answering questions like: What are your most loyal readers looking at? What are they engaging with? And how does this information weave together with your overall mission?”

“Sophie’s focus is helping newsrooms better understand their metrics so that they can make informed decisions about how well they’re serving their audiences,” said Walter-Brown. “She’s helping them identify not only what stories to cover but how to tell those stories in a way that’s most meaningful to their audience.”

Ho said one of the best benefits of these traffic analyses has been the validation and encouragement that newsrooms receive; many of her findings align with hunches that newsroom staffers may have had but hadn’t been able to prove. “It can be incredibly validating when an outsider can come and provide some of the same conclusions that your newsroom may have had assumptions about,” she said. “The concrete knowledge gives them confidence to move forward.”

Ho said she’s been hearing from newsrooms that they are impressed with how quickly she’s been able to do such in-depth analyses. She typically turns around traffic reports and recommendations within two weeks. “In newsrooms, everyone is so busy covering their communities and doing great journalism — as they should be — so being able to give them back some time through these projects is a gift,” she said.

Ho said she looks forward to embarking on traffic deep-dives for additional Hub newsrooms. “Analyzing data is something I love to do,” she said. “And I feel most energized when I have an opportunity to share that information with journalists and editors and help think about how that information can help support their decisions and improve their workflows.”

The News Revenue Hub is currently offering in-depth traffic audits to its premium clients. All Hub clients can request audits as a one-off service. For more information, contact [email protected]

A robust KPI overhaul 

Led by Hub news product specialist Mac Blair and co-founder Tristan Loper, the Hub is also rebuilding its monthly Key Performance Indicator, or KPI, reports. The recent sunsetting of Google’s Universal Analytics and launch of Google Analytics 4 (“GA4,”) provided an ideal opportunity “to reimagine what our KPI reports look like,” Loper explained.

“We asked ourselves: How can we build something that helps organizations stay focused on the most important metrics, that allows them to compare their performance against peers, and also encourages them to share wins with stakeholders?” said Loper.

The new KPI reports will show additional metrics for newsrooms through a cleaner and more dynamic interface, which is still under development.

“This is a project we’ve been excited about for a long time,” said Blair. “We’re taking something that we already know is very useful and making it better and more streamlined for both us and our clients.”

The KPI report overhaul is part of a large-scale technology update that includes News Revenue Engine, a Contribution Management Platform that the Hub offers to newsrooms for free. For more information about Hub tech tools, contact [email protected].

What’s ahead: Mission-Driven Metrics

Once the KPI rebuild is complete, the Hub will turn its attention to an ambitious new project called “Mission-Driven Metrics.”

Mission-Driven Metrics will gather the qualitative and quantitative data the Hub currently collects from newsrooms to produce “as complete a picture as possible of a news organization’s reach and footprint,” explained Loper. Moreso, Mission-Driven Metrics will provide insight into how effectively newsrooms are reaching and representing the communities they aim to serve.

“All of our KPIs have been driven around things like audience and revenue growth, but those metrics leave out how well that growth represents the communities that newsrooms serve,” said Walter-Brown. “We want to examine what percentage of people in those communities are consuming content, contributing insights and helping to shape and define news organizations.”

Ho, who will be part of the team working on Mission-Driven Metrics, said the project has the potential to “redefine the news industry.” She said she’s particularly excited to help clients discover how to better serve diverse audiences. “We don’t want to keep reaching only a predominantly white or affluent base,” Ho explained. “We want to help newsrooms assess how deeply they’re reaching their communities, especially historically underserved and underrepresented readers, and serving them in ways that align with their mission.”

Walter-Brown said that the Hub will soon seek funding for this project. For more information about Mission-Driven Metrics, contact [email protected].