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Trinity Mirror trials scheme measuring online story ‘impact’

Trinity Mirror is trialling a new way of measuring how stories are performing online in a bid to see which articles have the most “impact” on readers.

The regional publisher is experimenting with the “high impact score” system, which examines content read by more than 5,000 people online for at least one minute.

The score also factors in the percentage of people reading the article how are regular visitors to the site.

The metrics are blended using Chartbeat, the programme used by Trinity Mirror newsrooms to analyse reader habits online.

Posting on Twitter, Trinity Mirror digital publishing director David Higgerson, pictured, said the trial would help the company to work out what kind of content was most popular with “loyal, local readers”.


David told HTFP the system was about trying to “provide content editors with a sense of what loyal readers value”

He said: “We’ve used page views as a primary metric for a long time, and will continue to do so, as delivering a large audience to our content has been fundamental to our company’s digital revenue growth. It has also helped us become more relevant to local people – by looking at the content large numbers of people want to read, we’ve learnt about what matters to people.

“We’ve also learnt that stories which we consider to be important aren’t always the stories readers consider to be important to them at first glance. That’s the problem with social networks using social shares as an indicator of interest, and also the flaw of search – people search for what they know they want, and the element of discovery is lost.”

David added the metric was designed to provide a “filter for newsrooms, and to look across our network and see which stories had an impact on a good number of people”, noting the number of TM stories assessed as having a high impact had increased from 1,200 to 1,900 since October.

He said: “We’ve learnt a lot from that. National news stories often do very well against this score, as does [crime round-up feature] Locked Up, and some live blogs. And we’re seeing more long reads coming through too. Our belief is that if you have a positive impact on someone while they are on their mobile phone, they’ll be more likely to come back.

“Some of the high impact stories run into the hundreds of thousands of readers, while [active engagement time] has been above five minutes in some cases. The latest score is a further dip into this and we’ve only done it once to see what happens. We blend three metrics – the two mentioned here plus the percentage of readers to an article who are loyal – to create a score in relation to all other high impact stories that month.

“In total, in gives newsrooms three levels of data to look at: Page Views in total, high impact stories, and the high impact stories which most made a memorable impression on loyal readers, who also tend to be local (although not always). We’re currently taking feedback from newsrooms on this metric, with a view to refining it in the next couple of months.

“To some extent, it helps reinforce a lot of things that we did know, but is also teaching us new things. It’s also showing that by having paid attention to metrics for several years, we’re successful in driving readers not only to the stories they instantly find useful or interesting, but getting them to try some of the stories they wouldn’t think were relevant to them.”


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  • April 30, 2018 at 3:19 pm

    If you had local offices in town centres and staff on the ground locally you instantly used to know this because……wait for it…… you used to speak to people locally.

    Who’d have thought being local when being a local business would help so much. I’ve even heard it helps gain more advertising and relevancy but that can’t be true

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  • April 30, 2018 at 3:44 pm

    If ever there was a fiasco of reinventing the wheel, and coming up with square wheels.
    The ‘yes’ generation of editors and their ilk trying to show that taking on once proud newspaper titles, starving them of investment and staff, losing contact with their communities and flooding websites, further removed from brands with this Live nonsense, with twaddle, is about giving ‘loyal’ readers what they want.
    David Higgerson seems able to put a positive spin on anything, but this really is coming up with a plan to keep a few people looking busy.
    TM needs to realise how clunky their web offering is, how poorly written headlines and stories are, how the over-stretched reporting teams often show ignorance of their patch’s history, or what happened before in a story, and how they now seem to rely on press releases or other people’s social media to conjure up stories.
    I was proud to have worked on my local paper, but it’s so bad and amateurish now, I can’t read it.
    And the latest editor without a clue keeps on about how great the product is, how great his team is, as if all those who went before were the rank amateurs. Those who managed to spell suburbs, districts, villages and street names correctly. Who checked, double checked and treble checked the stories – who put store by quality, not some fancy dan computer programme trying to prove something that never needed proving before.

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  • April 30, 2018 at 4:10 pm

    @saddened journo. Unfortunately this is the KPI generation. It’s not good enough anymore to just make a difference in the community you serve. It’s only about tracking and efficiency. In itself that is not bad but the disconnect they now have from the communities they are supposed to be serving is obvious to all including them or they wouldn’t need the above.
    It’s a pretty desperate situation when you are this far in to this brave new world and only now you think to look at what the customer really values. It does make one wonder how relevant all the previous rebrands where when you bare in mind they now admit they had no idea what type of customer they were tracking in all the audience figures. Or was it all about saving money?

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  • April 30, 2018 at 5:37 pm

    So, let me get this right, any piece of content which is read by at least 5,000 people, for at least a minute, is adjudged ‘high impact’?

    Surely, if TM’s Live websites have as many unique visitors as Dave Higgerson would have us believe then you’d like to think that pretty much every bit of content that went up would be read by at least 5,000 people for at least a minute.

    If, as this article suggests, the ‘high impact’ articles are in the minority then maybe Trinity Mirror should look at why so much time and effort is being invested in producing copy which the overwhelming majority of website visitors clearly don’t give a damn about.

    Over to you Dave!

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  • May 1, 2018 at 10:57 am

    Further to my previous post, have just been doing some back-of-fag-packet mathematics…

    Assuming a county with a population of, say, 1m: a ‘high-impact’ article is read by 0.005 of residents for at least 60 seconds.

    Would love to know what constitutes a medium or low-impact article!

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  • May 1, 2018 at 11:53 am

    Is that a sent-in picture? It’s the way forward, folks.

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  • May 1, 2018 at 12:43 pm

    I hope the software accounts for the ‘impact’ of excessive advertising on news articles too!

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  • May 1, 2018 at 4:18 pm

    @fredfunk – To answer your question, the high impact metric is designed to look at our stories a different way. Having 1,900 articles which attract more than 5k uniques who read for more than a minute doesn’t bring into question the other unique browser number (which commentators on this website spend far more time talking about than we do!) because we produce many more stories which engage people for less than a minute.

    This doesn’t make those stories pointless, as some on here suggest, because the AET bar of 1minute is quite high. If you look at newspaper readership research, the average person spends 30mins with a newspaper. If you assume 4 stories a page on average, in a 48 page book, it’s highly unlikely any single article in a paper will keep people for more than a minute. We’ve intentionally set the 1m figure to allow us to focus on stories which really have stopped people and engaged them.

    We’re perfectly happy that many, many people come in, read one or two stories and then go away again, because that’s how digital readers consume content. But we also want to make sure we’re focusing on the things which might get a bit lost if we only looked at page views.

    Not sure what to say to @saddenedjourno other than that I don’t work with yes editors, and I don’t think editors do set out to criticise what went on in the past. Analytics help us prove what we thought we knew (based on our personal experience, which will always be a smaller sample of people than we can learn from through data) and also learn stuff we didn’t know. It’s about being prepared to be led by data when it comes to understanding readers, but also being prepared to challenge the data too.

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  • May 1, 2018 at 9:24 pm

    “…It’s about being prepared to be led by data…”
    What a shame it isn’t about being prepared to be led by actually talking to people, real people, ones who buy the papers and visit the websites and ones who dont, they’d learn a lot but maybe wouldnt hear what they want so prefer data into which they can read what they like without it answering back.

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  • May 1, 2018 at 11:17 pm

    @davidhiggerson. Again as a broken record I find myself pointing out the same thing which you ignore and avoid answering every time you give an otherwise long detailed answer.
    Your web sites are clunky at best. The advertising leaves people frustrated. The live on the scene reporting is amateurish at best in both recording quality and presentation. But yet again you are rolling out another tracking measure while ignoring the fundamentals listed above. Understanding the logistics of what you do as you do is to be commended and respected. But not being able to take on genuine concerns about the content and only ever responding from a defensive stance will and has previously lead to many businesses failing. I truly believe you understand what you are doing from a digital perspective better than many others and also believe you have a passion for it. But you must know deep inside that nobody on the reporting and local level with drive, dedication and amazing ideas will hang around for very long in such a poor paying business that is heading in one direction and likely to make them redundant at any moment. Any one with these skills will be gone to move up the ladder elsewhere in both progression and pay scale. This fact alone will always leave the content falling way behind on what still is a news based business no matter how much the wheel gets reinvented.
    I’ve been lucky enough to leave this industry I loved and was around from the age of 4 and became very successful in another passion I have. This was achieved by getting the fundamentals right, giving the customer what they wanted and what others failed to provide and doing it better than all else 24/7/365. I was never from the reporting side but was on the final step distribution so none of my comments have any bitterness as I’m far better off now and actually see my kids growing up as opposed to the old days of 70+ hour weeks. It’s all just simple business sense.

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