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We detox from Chartbeat

“With every media company feeling the pressure to iterate, diversify, and experiment with the next business model, now is not the time to be distracted.”

The use of real-time analytics has infiltrated newsrooms everywhere over the last decade. Chartbeat is a persistent distraction on virtually every editor’s screen, jittering and fluttering with concurrents and trending content. With every media company feeling the pressure to iterate, diversify, and experiment with the next business model, now is not the time to be distracted.

We need to focus on metrics that align with our long-term goals: attracting and retaining a loyal audience and building a sustainable business through diversified revenue streams and business models. There are metrics for those too: loyal visitors, new paying members, podcast listeners, newsletter subscribers, and on and on. I’m not here to prescribe specific metrics that all media companies should look at — each company is different and should define what’s important for themselves — but I do believe that looking (often staring) at how content is performing second by second takes one’s eyes off those long-term goals.

Real-time analytics aren’t entirely evil. They can be a sharp tool for certain roles in a newsroom, like engagement and section editors around elections and live events. My prediction (my plea!) is that more and more publishers will begin to realize that subscribing to a real-time analytics service is a tax on our attention, ultimately cutting into profits and long-term audience value.

So, to my fellow analysts, some calls to action for 2019:

  • Develop, refine, and evangelize the real metrics that your company should obsess over.
  • Deliver timely information, consistently, to any area the business that is interesting, insightful, and actionable.
  • Be flexible with the metrics you use — there will never be one data point that tells the whole story. Let instinct and ideas drive your metrics.

Focus your attention on the metrics that matter, the ones that support your long-term goals, and let’s make media a sustainable business.

Jeff Chin is senior director of analytics at Vox Media.

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