Media analytics: We don't know what to count

Yesterday morning I was on a panel at the SAS Global Forum outside Washington, DC. We were talking about how Marriott and State Farm use analytics in their businesses. And that got me thinking about journalism. It seems to me that companies like SAS create ever more sophisticated technology to add efficiencies and calculate return on investment, and yet… In our industry, we still don’t know what to count.

We don’t know what a page view or a click is worth (It depends who’s clicking). Our colleague David Kiley, for example, linked to a video of a sexy Paris Hilton ad a couple years ago and got more traffic in a day than we were getting in a month on Blogspotting. But say SAS CEO Jim Goodnight reads one of our posts and forwards it a few dozen of his top execs, how does the value of his click compare to those of the Paris Hilton fans?

The point is that if you don’t understand your business, analytics is beside the point. And I sense that in journalism, we’re still struggling to come to grips with what we’re doing and what it’s worth.

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