Knight Foundation | The New York Times

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are aiming some serious scratch at a problem Meena Thiruvengadam wrote about on Poynter.org recently.

"Despite advances in big data, surprisingly primitive metrics are still commonly used to assess audience engagement with content and its effects on individual perceptions and behaviors," a Knight press release reads.

Page views, TV ratings, “likes” and retweets alone don’t reveal how media influences people’s awareness or actions. This is a challenge for organizations that hope to connect audiences with important social issues and support long-term change.


The Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism will host the grant-funded program, dubbed the Media Impact Project.

Lear Center Director Martin Kaplan told The New York Times' Michael Cieply that one of the program's goals "is to provide tools on an 'open-source' basis, putting socially minded nonprofit groups on a more equal footing with corporate advertisers, who use sophisticated, but expensive, measurements."

Aron Pilhofer, editor of interactive news at The New York Times, told Thiruvengadam current metrics are "like having a numerator in search of a denominator. You don’t know what it actually means.”

Previously: How journalists can measure engagement