Quantifying impact: A better metric for measuring journalism

January 14th, 2012 § 32 comments § permalink

Before Isaac Newton, words like mass and force were general descriptors, as James Gleick writes in The Information:

“the new discipline of physics could not proceed until Isaac Newton appropriated words that were ancient and vague—force, mass, motion, and even time—and gave them new meanings. Newton made these terms into quantities, suitable for use in mathematical formulas.”

The term information was similarly amorphous until Claude Shannon, while working at Bell Labs, quantified the concept in bits.

* * *

The journalism goals and business goals for news organizations are out of sync.

Pageviews. Unique visitors. Time on site.

Some journalism might be best quantified partly or wholly by one or more of those ways, but we need to explore deeper beyond these fairly simplistic metrics.

We know how these terms are defined, but what do they really mean? What do they help us achieve?

In creating a theory of information and quantifying information in bits, Shannon aimed to remove meaning. “Shannon had utterly abstracted the message from its physical details,” Gleick says.

For journalism, the goal should be to add more meaning to the information we use to measure our work. Granted, our current metrics aren’t meaningless. We use them because they do have meaning: views, comments, shares, etc. each has a meaning and can be measured based on that one-dimensional measure. The quantities of metrics increase because the works of journalism they describe are meaningful. Or, put another way, impactful.

So, what if we measured journalism by its impact?

» Read the rest of this entry «

TNTJ November: Penny for your thoughts?

November 23rd, 2008 § 1 comment § permalink

(Below is my response to this month’s question on Tomorrow’s News, Tomorrow’s Journalists: November Topic: A million to save journalism. See my original post.)

With $1 million to help journalism, I would fund a project to look for ways to financially sustain journalism efforts, building off of the New Business Models for News Summit.

I wasn’t at the conference, so I followed it online. It was a great starting point, but we need more Web people involved. And not just Web people, but innovators who have successfully made money online.

To give you a sense of the people I would invite:

Weigh in: Who else would you invite?

Sidenote: This closed-door summit is not the answer: API Hosting ‘Crisis Summit’ for Newspaper Industry.

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