usnews

Marrying Editorial Intuition and Data with Christian & Carson of US News

February 14, 2012

Editor’s Note: This is the second post in a new Q&A series with Parse.ly Dash customers. Every other week we’ll feature an awesome publisher that’s using Dash and dig into how they’re making use of freshly grown insights.

Parse.ly recently interviewed Christian Lowe, Managing Editor at US News & World Report, and Carson Smith, Web Analyst at US News & World Report, to gain a better understanding of how they’re using Dash to inform editorial decisions. Data has long been at the foundation of US News, and as is such we were eager to learn how our publishers-built tools and data insights performed in the hands of data-hungry infromavores. Read on to see what Christian and Carson have to say about data and editorial intuition, the analytics playing field, and specifically how they’re leveraging Dash at US News.

The Thoughts of Christian Lowe, Managing Editor

Parse.ly: What type of advantage does Dash give you?

Christian: Easy UI, ability to check immediately what content is doing well–both internally and externally—and why it’s doing well.

Parse.ly: What are some of the primary use cases for Dash at your publication?

Christian: Check trending stories and past story performance. Chart referrers. Make editorial decisions based on global story trends.

Parse.ly: How often are you and/or your team using Dash on a typical day? Are you in the system constantly? Do you check on an case-by-case basis? How is it integrated into your workflow?

Christian: I have Dash running all day from the moment I log into my workstation to the minute I leave. I’m near constantly checking the performance of our content and am benchmarking against past performance. I also have started to look at Macro trends like overall site traffic etc.

Parse.ly: What’s your favorite story (crazy, funny, surprising, etc.) about using Parse.ly?

Christian: Using Dash’s “Worldwide Trends” function, we noticed midway through the day that the search terms Vladimir Putin and McCain were trending high. Within 45 minutes from assignment to posting, our story on the controversy was the top result in Google search on the subject.

Parse.ly: What new features would be most useful to your business?

Christian: I would like a more accurate way to dig down into the referrals. For example, I can see that a story had traffic from, say, Yahoo News, but I can’t see whether that traffic came from an internal link within a previous story in Yahoo, or just a stand alone URL on the Yahoo News page.

I would also like a more robust realtime metrics page which shows which posts are trending and where the traffic is coming from. I don’t care so much about topics or keywords.

Parse.ly: What are some tips you would give to a peer about using data and analytics to make editorial decisions?

Christian: Let the data inform your editorial decisions, don’t let them drive your content.

Parse.ly: Do you use Dash more for getting more value out of existing content, help determine what new content you should create, or to evaluate performance of authors, topics, posts, etc?

Christian: Again, I don’t really use the topics data – we already know what topics we’re going to write on. We need to find out what sorts of stories within those topics are working or not and why. I also find the ability to input URLs and evaluate specific stories very useful.

Parse.ly: Do your writers use Dash at all? How has it affected the way they choose, or find, stories they want to write?

Christian: Not yet, but I am going to selectively give access to some of them. I’d like there to be a way to customize how much data each sign in can get.

The Thoughts of Carson Smith, Web Analyst

Parse.ly: Why did you choose to use Dash at your publication? What were the pain points or opportunities you were trying to address?

Carson: The learning curve for enterprise analytics solutions can be steep. While basic information like top pages were accessed frequently by editors, more advanced features often went ignored.

Dash gives our editors the power to easily access insights that were either not available or required an analyst.

Parse.ly: I’m sure you use or considered using other products. How did you decide on Parsely Dash?

Carson: At first I compared Dash directly with some other real time analytics products. But I realized it’s fundamentally a different tool. In addition to real time, it’s both backward and forward looking.

Parse.ly: What type of advantage does Dash give you?

Carson: Dash’s focus on action-oriented insights over data dumping gives it a big advantage over traditional tools. Our editors want to know why something happened and what will happen. Dash helps answer both questions quickly.

Parse.ly: What are some tips you would give to a peer about using data and analytics to make editorial decisions?

Carson: Don’t throw intuition out the window. Use analytics data to hone your instincts so your intuition becomes more reliable.

Parse.ly: A lot of people are talking about different types of data journalism, but few people are really doing it. As one of the early movers on this trend, what is the most important lessons you’ve learned?

Carson: Data has long been a foundation of US News’ journalism, but not until recently have we been inundated by so much of it. An important lesson is to identify what data really matters for our business and readers. Analytics tools help to sift wheat from the chaff.

Thanks to Christian and Carson for providing their insight!

We're Sweet 16!

So NBD but today Vanderbilt moved up a notch to #16 in the U.S. News and World Report’s Best College Ranking. That’s our highest ranking ever, and, well, we were so happy when we got the news, we were like:

And when we found out we ranked No. 8 in undergraduate teaching we were like:

And when we found out we placed No. 11 in value we were like:

And when our BFFs over at the School of Engineering moved up to No. 31 we definitely were like:

And when we found out we were a No. 20 pick for U.S. guidance counselors we were like:

And when we also ranked No. 14 in economic diversity we were like:

And over at Kirkland, a little bit of this might have happened:

So pat yourselves on the back, Commodores. You done good.

Edward Brooke was the first African-American Senator in the US and served 2 terms for the state of Massachusetts.

The Guardian released an article yesterday demanding no less than we have here: caution in interpreting data from studies. Their intended target was the recent rash1, 2, 3, 4, 5 of articles only drawing additional stigma to those suffering from depression, as being more at risk to instigate criminal activity.

Thank you Guardian, you’re doing it right.

Ohgosh I just read the US news article on my school. It’s so opinionated…..I can’t even. The article seriously makes Mission look like a school full of overachieving asians that don’t give a crap about the arts and spend their whole time doing math and science. US News has made my school seem like we don’t have any fun. It’s awful, because one thing our school is known for is our homecoming and multicultural weeks. And not every student is like the model MSJ student US News described in their article. Hell, a majority of us do have a work hard, party harder ethic. And they did bit mention what the average Mission student does as extracirricular, nor did they mention how amazing our sports are. Okay, maybe if they included all of that, our article would have bern too extensive, but still. A lot of MSJ students dance; isn’t that considered a visual art? Many students also draw and do graphic design and photography; isn’t that an art? Our L2, Costanoan Yearbook, Smoke Signal, and Speech and Debat are amazing, and none of that is about math or science. We also excel in sports like tennis, swim, badminton….even our JV football team is stepping it up this year (Number one in the league so far!). I don’t think its fair for US News to make us seem like a bunch of academically competitive robots, because no matter how much someone could hate Mission, no one can say Mission is an exclusively math and science school.

WMO: Humans to Blame for Increased Global Temperatures: The warmest 13 years of average global temperatures have all occurred in the 15 years since 1997

"Our science is solid and it proves unequivocally that the world is warming and that this warming is due to human activities," World Meteorological Organization Deputy Secretary-General Jerry Lengoasa told reporters in Durban, where almost 200 nations are gathered for U.N. climate talks.

The WMO, part of the United Nations, said the warmest 13 years of average global temperatures have all occurred in the 15 years since 1997. That has contributed to extreme weather conditions that increase the intensity of droughts and heavy precipitation across the world, it said.

"Global temperatures in 2011 are currently the tenth highest on record and are higher than any previous year with a La Nina event, which has a relative cooling influence," it said.

La Salle, St. Joe’s Grads Among Top Students in Debt. A recent study from US News & World Report revealed the 10 schools in America where students averaged the most debt upon graduation, and two Philly institutions are on the list.

  • LaSalle is at No. 6 with the average student leaving with $45,888 in debt
  • St. Joe’s is No. 8 with the average student leaving with $45,530 in debt

Not surprisingly, graduates of private institutions like Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania leave schools with little to no debt thanks to campus jobs, scholarships, and grants, according to the report. Data collected via U.S. News's annual Best Colleges survey show that, among the 1,009 ranked schools that reported undergraduate student debt figures, 2010 graduates who borrowed funds averaged nearly $25,000 in debt.

-LD

[h/t @jeff_deeney, USNews.com]

Photo: Getty Images