When it comes to content analytics, journalists and editors mostly fall into two categories: datavors and dataphobes.

But the sheer volume of metrics available today can leave even the most ardent data enthusiast in a cold sweat. What metrics are important to look at? And how do we use them?

"Content is the cornerstone of what your work entails," said Em Kuntze, content and community manager at Content Insights.

"The problem that we have as an industry is that we are using metrics that were never designed for us in the first place."

Kuntze explained that most browser metrics were designed for advertisers, so they are industry inappropriate and do not offer any insights into how your human readers interact with and appreciate your online content.

Another problem is that newsrooms find themselves optimising for one single metric, say, page views, that may not benefit their business.

"It doesn't matter how many times an article has been read but how readers engaged with it and how loyal they are to your brand, especially if your content is paid-for," said Kuntze.

Read depth is one of the best way to measure how much your readers appreciate the content. If editors see that only 10 percent of people made it past the first paragraph, they know there is a problem and can start finding solutions.

"Analytics are a tool for us to use, we are not a tool for analytics," said Kuntze.

"You can put your trust in numbers but you first need to know what those numbers represent."

One of the dangers of online analytics is that publishers tend to seek an industry benchmark and compete against others.

Instead, a meaningful way of using data is comparing your current performance with your best or average performance, so you only find yourself competing against the best version of yourself.

"Metrics that matter measure behaviour of readers, not of browsers," said Kuntze.

For example, one click on a page is what a browser records and says little about user engagement.

In comparison, when an actual human reader opens a page and interacts with it for at least 10 seconds, you can start to gain insights into readers' behaviour.

"Behavioural metrics are tricky to measure but they are vital to editors as browser metrics don't provide any useful information for content optimisation," explained Kuntze.

"When you look at success stories in the media industry, you would be hard-pressed to find a single one that hasn't been data-informed.

"And although that means a seismic shift from print culture to digital, getting analytics right is necessary for thriving in the era of digital publishing," she concludes.

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