Balancing analytics with quality audience engagement skills

ONA16’s Audience Engagement + Analytics track is generously supported by the Robert R. McCormick FoundationRRMF_Logo_LongSideTag_CMYK_(1)

We’re obsessed with the stories journalists tell, and we’re fascinated by how journalists are adapting stories for continuously evolving tools to connect people to these stories. At ONA16, there’s a strong focus on projects and tools developed with audience engagement in mind to give newsrooms insight into what matters to their communities. Whether you want to know more about tools for increasing audience interaction, creating stronger communities, generating more empathy in your viewers or reaching new audiences, you’ll find lots of resources to help you in deciding where to invest. 

Digital media is telling stories in a variety of ways that can reach a wider, more diverse audience. One of our sessions explores how features like Snapchat Discover, Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News provide a place to do this and what this means for publishers. P. Kim Bui,’s deputy managing editor; Ashley Codianni, CNN’s director of social media; Justin Ellis, ESPN’s senior editor and Versha Sharma, NowThis’ managing editor, will discuss how to create successful distributed content, while also relinquishing control over elements like design and data on your audience.

Founders at the Coral Project talked to over 300 people from nearly 150 news organizations in more than 30 countries about comments over the past year, followed by a year building tools to create strong communities around journalism. We’re very excited to have Greg Barber, director of digital news projects from The Washington Post; Sydette Harry, community lead and Andrew Losowsky, project lead, both from The Coral Project, talk about their experiences. They will also focus on common misperceptions about comments, studies to help you make informed decisions and demonstrate open-source software to create and enliven communities.

It’s become apparent that audiences don’t just want to receive news in multiple mediums, they also want to connect in a variety of ways. Monica Guzman, a 2016 Nieman Foundation Fellow; Dheerja Kaur, head of product at theSkimm; Terry Parris Jr., community editor at ProPublica and Josh Stearns, associate director of the Public Square Program at Democracy Fund, will delve into creating a unique conversation around the news, while dealing with the technological, ethical and editorial issues you face using these tools.

On Friday, Stephanie Clary, managing editor at Breaking News, and Sam Mandel, CEO and partner of Poncho/Betaworks, will continue the conversation about tools by examining the latest trend — bots. They’re new, easy to transport and have their own personalities. Our speakers will cover everything from Messenger to Alexa and the usefulness of bots for keeping audiences up to speed on what’s happening worldwide.

If you are constantly striving to balance click metrics while still maintaining a strong relationship with your audience, What We Really Mean When We Talk About Empathy and Analytics is for you. Shannon McGregor, research associate of the Engaging News Project, and Scott Smallwood, managing editor of the Chronicle of Higher Education, will discuss what content triggers empathy from an audience and how to keep your community invested in the long run.

For even more on keeping up your viewership, one of our sessions focuses on using tools, such as chat apps, to their fullest ability. Ariana Tobin, the Guardian News and Media’s engagement editor; Emily Withrow, assistant professor at the Knight Lab of Northwestern University and Zach Seward, Quartz’s SVP of product and executive editor, will share their best practices for getting your audience engaged, while planning ahead for times when the conversation could hit a dead end.

If you want to dig deeper into analytics, Developing the Audience You Don’t Have will give you greater insight. Apryl Pilolli, Sr. Product Manager, Social with Cox Media group; Amy Vernon, director of audience engagement at the Daily Dot, Carla Zanoni, executive emerging media editor at The Wall Street Journal, and Kim Fox, a senior engagement editor, will provide you with strategies to locate an audience you’re not quite reaching, develop a relationship and build that into an expanding core group.

Another of our sessions will focus on the relationships that can be formed with audiences during journalism events. Using USA TODAY’s 10-event “variety show” format series as a guide, our speakers — Megan Finnerty, director of Storytellers Brand Studio/Gannett, and Liz Nelson, senior director of audience engagement strategy at the USA TODAY NETWORK — will focus on the kinds of emotional and dedicated connections you can create with an audience by hosting events like these. They will also offer practical tips and suggestions for what it takes to pull off your own event.

This year, more than ever, the election is always on our minds. It’s being covered from all angles and with every tool possible. Versha Sharma and Ashley Codianni will talk about the process for producing pieces on social platforms, such as Twitter, Snapchat or Facebook, as well as how to effectively report on events with a small team and keep political election coverage evergreen.

Finally, our Table Talks are a chance to meet with industry experts and your peers to talk through the issues you’re most passionate about related to audience engagement and analytics. Note: Topics will be announced closer to the conference and we are not taking questions for speakers in advance, since these are participatory conversations.

New this year: You can ask session speakers questions ahead of time to help shape the conversation. If you’re curious about an emerging trend, want to know more about a topic or are hoping that speakers will dig into something during their session, now’s your chance to post a question. We’ve embedded question forms on the session pages. To see them, just click on a session from the schedule and you can post your question directly on the ONA16 site. We’re thrilled to be using Hearken to make this happen!