The Seattle Times is making it everyone’s job to grow digital subscribers

Newsrooms have tracked audience for years now. But what if they’ve been watching the wrong numbers, or, perhaps, not all the right numbers? Can publishers build a single tool that more clearly answers the question: How’s my story doing?

With this question front of mind, the Seattle Times built a bespoke dashboard hub, and they think they’ve come up with a measurement that moves journalism analytics beyond the pageview hunt. Now, the newsroom can see if their stories are actually turning readers into subscribers.

Here’s how it works:

Digital subscriptions are measured by something called the “influence report.”  That report produces a score based on what users clicked on before becoming subscribers over three sets of time periods. The time periods are:

  • One visit (people click on more than one story per visit)

  • One week and five pageviews

  • Thirty days and 25 pageviews

The influencer report can be searched by topic, section and author. The newsroom has started rolling the reports out in beta to various departments.

So far, Mike Rosenberg, a real estate reporter, is seeing that his in-depth and time-consuming work often drives more subscriptions than the work that took an hour but went viral, he told Poynter.

Last year, Rosenberg spent a lot of time on a story about how Amazon made Seattle the country’s biggest company town. It ran on the front page on Sunday and influenced 140 subscriptions, more than anything else he’s covered in his two years at the Times.

He also wrote a quick story last year about tiny apartments. It was the most-read story on the day it was published and got about 100,000 pageviews. It influenced about seven people to subscribe.

“The consensus is we’d rather have a story that had a smaller number of good readers who wind up subscribing than a viral story that a bunch of people in New York and Chicago read but will never come back to Seattle again.”

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