October 27, 2010

Nieman Journalism Lab

For the past two months, Philly.com has been using a seven-part formula to create what its staff calls a reader “engagement index.” Lois Beckett writes that the formula is designed to gauge reader interest and participation in the site’s content, not simply page views or visits.

The equation looks a bit intimidating —  “Σ(Ci + Di + Ri + Li + Bi + Ii + Pi )” — but Beckett writes that it breaks down like this:

  • “Ci — Click Index: visits must have at least 6 pageviews, not counting photo galleries
  • Di — Duration Index: visits must … spend a minimum of 5 minutes on the site
  • Ri — Recency Index: visits that return daily
  • Li — Loyalty Index: visits that either are registered at the site or visit it at least three times a week
  • Bi — Brand Index: visits that come directly to the site by either bookmark or directly typing www.philly.com or come through search engines with keywords like ‘philly.com’ or ‘inquirer’
  • Ii — Interaction Index: visits that interact with the site via commenting, forums, etc.
  • Pi — Participation Index: visits that participate on the site via sharing, uploading pics, stories, videos, etc.”

Beckett spoke with Chris Meares, a senior data analyst at Philly.com who spends about a third of his week working with the equation. The time spent does return valuable information:

” ‘We’re definitely seeing the impact of social media and how it provides engaged visitors,’ [Meares said.] While Google and Yahoo provide a lot of traffic, the visits that they send to Philly.com don’t tend to be engaged. Only 20.34 percent of visits that come through Google are engaged visits. In comparison, 33.64 percent of visits that come via Facebook are engaged.”

According to Meares, the staff is able to put its overall traffic into perspective by tracking engagement. “If overall traffic for the site is down,” Beckett writes, “but the number of engaged users are up, that still means the site is doing well.”

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