A New Newsroom Metric: Reading People’s Minds

This guest post was originally published on Medium. OK, sort of. Newsrooms already try to read people’s minds but don’t have objective metrics for it. From the start of the editorial process (what does “the audience” want/need?) to the analysis of the results (why don’t they scroll to the bottom?), it’s a guessing game as to what users are thinking. But there’s a new way to bridge that gap and measure audience opinion like never before. I’ll get to that below. First, let me tell you about monkeys.

Your Audience is Human

Believe it or not, I know a thing or two about monkeys.

I spent August of 2013 studying primatology in Kenya. One of the key debates in primatology is around anthropomorphization, or ascribing human attributes to the animal you’re studying. One side of the debate goes so far as to say that a primate in the wild
not “scratching its armpit” as that might imply it has an itch there. Instead, a primatologist might say a primate is “making a scratching motion against its underarm.” In general, this makes sense. Primatologists cannot ask the monkeys if they have itchy armpits so they don’t want to make assumptions that they do. Luckily, in journalism, your audience is human. You don’t have to guess if they have itchy armpits. You can just ask them if they have itchy armpits. The more readers you ask, the more a subjective interpretation can transform into an objective metric: what your community-at-large is thinking.

Measuring Opinions En Masse and Over Time

This is a hypothetical armpit itchiness trend graph shows a steady level of itchy armpits across half of the audience while depicting an increase of readers with resolutely un-itchy armpits.

The method Opinary has identified to engage normally passive users creates an opportunity to tune into what a newsroom’s audience is thinking and debating like never before. Above, you see how we would visualize opinion trends over time on the question of armpit itchiness. Here are a few real world examples: Here’s how Opinary visualizes trending audience polarization: Here’s how Opinary visualizes trending audience agreement:

What Does This Mean For A Newsroom

With ways to engage readers in conversation in new ways, Opinary has found a way to get users to share their opinions and enter into a deeper exchange with the newsroom. These users are human. Newsrooms rely on these humans. This is a platform for newsrooms to serve their communities better by understanding what they think and how content influences their lives. The questions that shape a newsroom’s mission aren’t just for the newsroom anymore. If your audience is not a part of your mission, then you’re behind the curve.
  Simon Galperin is U.S. head of growth for Opinary. Reach me at simon@opinary.com.
The post A New Newsroom Metric: Reading People’s Minds appeared first on MediaShift.

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