What is engagement? How can you measure it? What are the most important metrics? These are questions that matter a great deal, especially in public relations. But good news, PR is measurable. The same applies to the ever-changing and challenged media landscape. As James G. Robinson, director of analytics innovation at the New York Times said, “attempting to measure engagement is one of the great neurosis of the modern media industry.”
At the World News Media Congress, Robinson discussed how the New York Times is taking an interesting approach to gain insight into its audience. In fact, they are using Reddit to try to “bring the audience into the newsroom,” to see which stories are creating conversations.
Robinson describes Reddit as “a rich source of connecting our editors to our audiences.” In the NYT subreddit, editors are able to see which specific stories are resonating most with readers, whether it’s a breaking news story, or an article posted 20 years ago.
How is the NYT doing this? Cleverly, that’s how. It’s deployed a bot to scan Reddit and send an email alert to journalists and editors every time a NYT story is mentioned on the site by a user. Further, NYT journalists are using Reddit as a news source, helping them to identify stories that are bubbling as well as potential sources.
What’s most interesting here is that, unlike many publishing houses who are defining and measuring success based on traffic and subscriptions, the NYT is using Reddit to better understand and then engage with an audience.
I was thinking about what lessons communicators can apply from the NYT’s approach to our world. These three came to mind:
1) Understanding your audience – and where they get their information – is key: This requires fervent research, understanding the readership and reach of every media outlet or social channel to ensure your message is targeted to the best possible audience.
2) Amplify the content: Paid tools can ensure that your earned content reaches a larger, even more relevant audience.
3) Sometimes, a click is not enough: While optimizing impressions is often a top KPI, all this means is that your message is being spread. But are people engaging with your message? Consider tracking other important metrics, including: social media engagement and shares, referral traffic and comments.
After all, as Robinson said, “engagement is much more than a click on a link. It’s an emotion.” We agree.