At SXSW, NPR producer offers peek into network’s use of web metrics

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Attendees at a SXSW panel Saturday got a look at how NPR uses website and social media metrics and shares the information among its journalists — those who want to know, at least.

“At NPR, we have people who don’t want to know the numbers on their stories,” said Wright Bryan, a producer on NPR’s social media desk. “Others ferret out their byline stats. We have to accommodate all of them. . . . Everyone gets to live in their own little world.”

Bryan said reporters get daily performance emails looking at the previous day. Some of the bloggers and the NPR home page use Chartbeat, a web metrics tool. Others use NPR’s proprietary metrics dashboard built on top of Google Analytics.

Using metrics tools has also lead to story ideas for NPR. It uses CrowdTangle, a service that tracks social media performance, to keep tabs on what does well on Facebook — both its own posts and posts by member stations.

NPR is considering embedding a metrics analyst into its newsroom to help share more data with journalists, he said. Yet staffers aren’t always happy with what the metrics reveal, even when web visits are high.

NPR “wants to tell important stories, and we do, but also fun stories that people don’t think of as NPR stories,” Bryan said. But “when those pop up to the top of Chartbeat, it gets some people scrunching up their faces and wondering what we’re up to,” he said.