This post is by Alyssa Zeisler from MediaShift
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Many newsroom analytics deal with quantitative data — pageviews, time on page, retention, etc — and find meaning by looking at these numbers at scale and over time. And while quantitative is excellent at explaining what is happening, it cannot necessarily explain why something is happening. Customer research — in the shape of interviews, focus groups and surveys — is an important tool to deepen your understanding of your audience and learn about their motivations, habits, and relationship to your content. At the Financial Times, we use both types of information regularly in our newsroom to improve our understanding of a particular audiences and to develop specific strategies to grow reach and loyalty. Here we want to share three times we’ve used customer research to make better decisions around editorial, product and audience development. The lessons we learned doing this work aren’t unique to the FT, though — there are
here that any newsroom, regardless of size, can take on.
Surveys for Product, Platform and Content StrategySix months ago we shifted our editorial strategy for the FT’s WhatsApp channel from a broad sampling of content across topics and sections to a focus on markets new and analysis. This strategy shift resulted from the combination of quantitative data — we looked at what content was most engaging through click throughs, onward journey and return visits — and also qualitative surveys. We were able to analyze the survey data through many different angles. For instance, we looked at the differences between those who were likely to recommend us and those who weren’t. Indeed, we found that people who were more likely to recommend us were more likely to request more posts, more regularly. We also discovered that our users’ most common criticism was a technology issue we weren’t aware of, which we were then able to work with our product team to fix. Altogether, the survey helped us to improve our users’ experience and change our strategy to align with our audience on that channel. Since we changed our strategy, quality visits — a proprietary metric we use to gauge propensity to subscribe — have grown by 24 percent. Crucially, data analysis alone would not have led us to these conclusions.
Surveys to Aid Editorial Decision MakingWe also do surveys that are directly tied to our journalism. An example is the FT standing survey (we keep a link to it onsite and check it regularly) that asks readers three questions: What struggles do you encounter at work that this guide could help solve?
What experts, executives or entrepreneurs would you like to read an interview with?
Do you have a particularly good piece of career advice for others? Responses from this are informing the packages we curate for readers on our career guide, which is helping us to meet the needs and interests of our readers.