Audience Engagement Starts With Audience Tracking

In the match-making game that is the summer internship and job hunt now getting underway at J-schools across America, I always warn students to never take a job working for an editor who talks about how many “hits” her site gets. And I train my students so that they’ll never be the person whose resume gets tossed for doing the same.

Chapter 3 of Producing Online News and its related tipsheet provide a good overview of the who, what, when, where and why of online news audiences. (And that’s something that’s always changing, Pew reported yesterday that 4 percent of online adults — and 10 percent of Hispanic online adults — use geosocial tools such as Gowalla or Foursquare.)

But students can begin to learn both mass communication research concepts as well as skills if they have the chance to use Google Analytics (or the high-priced and industry dominating Omniture service) on a real, live news site. That will prove to be one of the strength’s of UNC’s new Reese Felts Digital Newsroom, an opportunity that is still pretty rare for journalism students.

The good news is that the Web is full of good free guides to using Google Analytics on a news site. Here are four good guides to get you started:

  • Tracking Your Users (
  • The Journalists’ Guide to Analytics (Mark S. Luckie)
  • Google Analytics – Adding Tracking Code(Brett Atwood)
  • Installing Google Analytics
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