Why do you need to know that?

People often struggle to create new KPIs for things. For example, how do we measure how “engaged” readers are with longform stories?

Here’s the problem: What would you change with that information? What does that number tell you? That most people don’t read to the end? You already know that.

99% of the time, it doesn’t matter what the answer is, because the organization will continue to do the same thing. That’s a-ok, to be honest. But if that’s the most likely outcome, why spend time trying to figure out a complicated — or even impossible — measurement?

Don’t optimize yourself into a corner

Technology makes it easier and faster to test a billion different ideas. You can A/B test subject lines, images, layouts, send times, all sorts of things.

But, A/B testing has a few big pitfalls It doesn’t account for other options.

What if the best answer is C? Or R? Or a sphere? A/B testing is one tool, but it’s not a reliable process for revealing new ideas.

Your audiences have tons of new ideas. But if you only ask if they prefer Pepsi or Coke — you’ll never learn how many people are dying to pay for Root Beer.

Membership is just marketing

The best marketing is built in. Always. A great product can sell itself to a point. But it will plateau. And without a strategy and resources to implement it, the product alone has a hard time replacing customers who move. Or rage quit. Or die.

Membership programs aren’t a new model. They are a more concerted marketing strategy.

Don’t be afraid of the dirty words.

Many newsrooms brag about “every dollar funds journalism”. I get the sentiment, but that statement neglects important functions. Marketing may be a dirty word, but you need it as much as you need electricity.

Like it or not, even with no business dept (or a minimal one), or no marketing staff, someone is still performing those duties. But they are doing them poorly. That’s more expensive than doing those duties well.

If you can’t sell the work, you are dead in the water.

Selling the work is every one’s duty

Now more than ever, it’s the responsibility of everyone in the organization to sell the journalism. Now, I’m not saying you need to roll up your sleeves, don a flat cap and hit the downtown corner yelling “EXTRA EXTRA” (holding up your phone with the app on it, of course).


If your newsroom can’t sell the work you produce, its days are numbered. This is true for non-profits as much as for profits. If you can’t convince people to value your work, there’s no funding model that will work.