Journalism schools need to teach web metrics as it sees increasing use in newsrooms

A survey of 114 top-level news editors shows widespread use of web metrics in U.S. newsrooms and this means j-schools need to add metrics and analytics as part of the changing journalism curriculum.

Conducted by Missouri School of Journalism in 2012, this study surveyed members of American Society of News Editors and the findings were released in 2013. This survey found that most newsrooms monitor web metrics (96.5%) to guide editorial decisions such as planning coverage and deploying resources.

What interests me more, however, is that the survey shows newsroom staffs are tasked with putting together metrics reports, yet many staff members do not have formal training in web metrics and analytics.

In 51 percent of the newsrooms that participated in the survey, web metrics reports are put together by the newsroom staff. Only 22 percent said their web metrics report comes from an IT division, while some 11 percent said the report comes from the marketing department.

Of the news editors surveyed, majority claimed to have had informal training on web analytics (51.4%) while some claimed to have self-taught knowledge or no training at all (25%).

From among the overwhelming information reported by web metrics tools such as Google Analytics, editors monitor key performance indicators such as the ones reported in this survey:

The survey participants reported they mainly monitor the number of unique visitors (85 percent) to the site.

The other key performance indicators that the top-level editors monitor include: most read articles (83.6 percent), number of page views (83.2 percent), top pages (82.1 percent), number of visits (80.3 percent), sources of traffic (73.8 percent), and session duration (72.9 percent).

That said, as so often is the case, a journalism graduate may not end up working in a newsroom. In his or her role working in PR, advertising, marketing and, say, “brand journalism,” a good knowledge of web metrics is even more important, and that requires a much deeper understanding of metrics than the basic indicators listed above.

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About Mu Lin

Dr. Mu Lin is a digital journalism professional and educator in New Jersey, United States. Dr. Lin manages an online marketing company. He also manages MulinBlog Online J-School (, a free online journalism training program, which offers courses such as Audio Slideshow Storytelling; Introduction to Social Media Marketing; Writing for the Web; Google Mapping for Communicators; Introduction to Data Visualization; Introduction to Web Metrics and Google Analytics.
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