Ball State University: data in the newsroom

March 27, 2017 is always on in the Unified Media Lab, the campus newsroom at Ball State University, and many writers and editors use it as a tool to see which stories have the most page views, social interactions, or the amount of time spent on their articles. The whole staff enjoys it for its intuitive interface and easily digestible metrics.

Understanding which stories receive the most social interactions has improved the social media presence of the campus newspaper, The Daily News. The social media editor uses this feature to evaluate which stories to push the following day. Breanna Daugherty, editor-in-chief of The Daily News, said that the feature allowed her to know what people are clicking on, what they are interested in, and how long they are spending on the page. “This helps me figure out what stories should be the main pieces in the newspaper the next day.” This has increased the overall readership of The Daily News and reporters write more stories that pique people’s interests when breaking news is not happening.

As a result, one evident improvement is an increase in website and social media tagging. We attempted to tag active people and organizations in almost every tweet, causing engagement with our content on both social media and the website. Before, we lacked easily available data to explain why a story did well and who shared it. Now, if a story has a lot of social interactions prior to our promotion efforts, we know to push the story.

We present analytics reports to editors every week. The presentations always include the top stories of the week taken from, as well as which tags and sections performed well or less successfully. We determine the top stories of the week by looking at a combination of page views, average engaged minutes, and social interactions. As a team, we see the value in looking at these metrics individually and then collectively. “I challenge myself and my team to get more page views and then experiment with search engine optimization (SEO) to get even more page views and to use this practice to find new ways to drive traffic to our stories,” said Robbie General, The Daily News managing editor.

Thanks to the analytics reports, The Daily News improved its bounce rate.

There is an evident improvement in our search engine optimization. Using this technique in the past, we noticed headlines were not written well for SEO and the stories were not gaining as much exposure because of it. For example, a recent story announcing Ball State’s newest president expanded its reach when we edited the headline from using the word “incoming” to “new.” This helped us become the first search entry on Google News and helped increase our page views. All of our sports previews now have “Preview” and games have “Recap” in the headline for that same reason.

Thanks to the analytics reports, The Daily News improved its bounce rate as well. We recommended hyperlinking stories in the text to other related articles and already saw an improvement the next week. According to Kaitlin Lange, former Cardinal Metrics account manager, “When we provided links to old stories on a new article, the old article received a sizable amount of page views from that action.” We noticed further improvement throughout the semester and we are happy where it sits now.

The Daily News launched a redesigned website on February 1, called The Daily, which allows other campus media, such as Ball Bearings, Byte, and NewsLink Indiana, to have a more visible presence on the website in addition to the newspaper. Our plan is to use to tweak the new pages to provide a better user experience for our readers. We will compare the tags from the old and new website to dive deeper into the data and see which tags do the best and why. This way, we can boost the performance of each section. We’d like to see how much better stories do with our website redesign. Combining the website redesign and the metrics generated by, we can conduct more in-depth reporting to continue to improve our content strategy.

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