6 ways metrics have helped transform Birmingham Live (and the other way round, too)

Behind Local News
May 26, 2018 · 5 min read

Anna Jeys, executive editor at Birmingham Live, has been at the forefront of Reach PLC’s pilot of a new style of newsroom which aims to be digital first — but more importantly audience first too. In practice, that means everyone spending more time making audience analytics work for their audiences. At the Behind Local News conference, Anna shared her six learnings so far:

Anna Jeys

When we launched Birmingham Live, it was about much more than a change of name and a change of colour on the website.

As part of this, we also split the newsroom into a number of core functions and on any given day we now have a live team covering live news, a patch team bringing issues from patches to the fore, and a trending team, responding to content which is appealing to readers online at that moment.

One thing we really wanted reporters to work on were passions or patches, areas of content that could be geographical or interest based, but which above all had the potential to engage a loyal audience.

We wanted to encourage reporters to build their own audiences and we were going to give them the tools to do that. Regardless of which team they were sitting in on any day, it’s essential reporters are understanding how readers are reacting to our content.

So we look at page views and unique browsers like everyone, but we are also looking at recirculation from an article — how likely are people to click on a second page — and we are also looking at the number of local readers visiting a story.

But the biggest change for us has been a move away from the just looking at the big numbers towards engagement metrics too, such as time spent per page and the stories loyal readers — the ones visiting every other day- were looking at.

We also wanted reporters to think about their average engaged time — this is a huge metric for us in the newsroom.

Often we need to match the right storytelling techniques to try and increase engaged time on an article.

Putting that metric on the radar of reporters has resulted in us seeing that stories with people at the heart of them retain readers for longer, as well as narrative storytelling.

Digital publishing standards also help improve active engaged time, and focusing on active engaged time also meant we learnt the stories which weren’t resonating with readers, prompting us to try new things with that content.

We are now starting to measure what we call high impact stories. These are the golden stories — the stories that really really engage people on an article for a long time but they also attract local users.

High impact stories are a real mix. It’s a bit of a myth that only long-form or issue-based journalism can be engaging. We’re finding trending and live content be be high impact too.

It’s just about how you tell these stories. We know now having done months a month of looking at high impact stories that court live blogs court are around six times as engaging for us as a standard court story.

Anna addresses the Behind Local News conference

Six things we learnt since launching Birmingham Live

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Behind Local News UK

The stories behind the stories, from the regional press in the UK

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