We Were Right

Interesting findings in this new study by Tim Rosenstiel for the Brookings Institute, who says the path toward sustainable journalism is being undermined by terrible data (thanks, John):

Major enterprise pays – The single biggest change publishers can make is to produce more major enterprise journalism. Major enterprise stories scored 48 percent better than others in a measure of overall engagement. However, just one percent of all content produced is classified as such.

People like long stories – The conventional wisdom that writing for the web needs to be short and fast simply is not true. “Long form” stories, those averaging 1,200 words, drove 23 percent more engagement and lifted other metrics such as page views (up 11 percent), sharing (by 45 percent), and reading time (by 36 percent).

The power of photos, audio, and video – Stories presented with a photo scored 19 percent higher in engagement than stories without photos. Stories with multiple photos scored 43 percent higher.

Crime as a staple of local reporting – Across the data set, crime ranked with food and dining as the topics audiences engaged with most. But in a digital world, what works best is somewhat different than it may have been previously. For instance, crime briefs—the classic police blotter of small incidents—do not perform well online.


One thought on “We Were Right

  1. Yes.

    But I think newspapers need to stop responding to data alone. Data are manipulated to fit people’s beliefs.

    Do good journalism — enterprise work, sometimes long stories, sometimes brief reads — because it’s good journalism, not just because a dataset tells you it makes more money.

    I feel like a new study is coming out every year saying the opposite of the study before it. It’s maddening that some news companies change their culture and ideals with each new study.

    More graphics! Less graphics! Reporter-shot videos! Less photographers! Inverted pyramid! Third-paragraph nut! Every year brings a new fad.

    Take note of the studies and be constantly aware of what readers respond to. We need to make money, but we should also hold fast to the ideals of enterprise work not just the data that says it makes more money.

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