Focusing on the why of the click

“We have only a surface-level appreciation of what motivates people and why they behave in a particular way.”

The newsroom of 2016 has screens of story metrics. Editors’ inboxes are full of data dashboards. Numbers play a part in the news meeting.

sarah-marshallWe may understand the lifecycle of a story, but how much do we understand what motivates our audiences?

  • What makes a reader return to a site every day?
  • Analytics can tell us that people visit a homepage without clicking on a story. But how are readers consuming news? By glancing at headlines and feeling informed? Are they instead overwhelmed or disinterested?
  • What role does emotion play in how we read, watch or explore?

This is the year we build on our data-guided decisions and embrace a reader-centric approach.

We are drowning in data. We have an in-depth understanding of story metrics, and we are starting to get smarter when it comes to recognizing reader interests. But we have only a surface-level appreciation of what motivates people and why they behave in a particular way.

Put simply: We know how to make readers click, we rarely understand why they do.

If we can better understand the people we rely on — our audiences — we can create better user experiences and products.

Sarah Marshall is is audience engagement editor for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa at The Wall Street Journal.

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