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This is a weekly newsletter for Gather, a project + platform to support community-minded journalists and other engagement professionals. We’d love your feedback. What's useful about this newsletter? What's missing? Let us know

In this week's newsletter:

  • SOCIAL SUCCESS: How do you (and your boss) measure social media success?

  • CASE STUDY: Revisit how City Bureau recruited volunteer coders to collaboratively build engagement tools.

  • JOB ALERT: CIR/Reveal is hiring an editor-in-chief, and engagement skills certainly wouldn't hurt.

  • HOT READ: Read Gatherer Heather Bryant's look at how journalists can and must do right by the people they serve.

  • INTROS: Meet Meena Thiruvengadam, a success manager.

The measure of social media success

We’re talking in October about social media as a strategic engagement tool for journalists. Today’s focus is measurement. We asked you last week:

How does your organization measure success on social media? And are those indicators the same things that get you personally excited? In short, for you and for your org, what does it look like when social media works well?

One consensus: The most meaningful data can be hard to find and analyze, and it’s way too convenient to focus on things that are easy to measure.

And another: Many organizations have driving traffic as a primary goal for social media, though we might personally get more gratification from other interactions.

Here’s some of what you told us:

Elizabeth Wolfe, Chicago Tribune:
We have different measures of success for our different efforts on social media. Of course, link clicks (and especially link clicks that lead to new subscriptions!) are our top priority, but we're always stoked to have a viral tweet or a successful post in one of our niche Facebook groups — even if they don't drive subs or get a ton of clicks. In addition to traffic, we have another big goal with social, though it's far less quantifiable: We want to be present everywhere our audience is, to meet our readers where they are. One thing that I've personally been really excited to see lately is when we create a place for readers to communicate with each other. Our Facebook group for Chicago Bears fans quickly turned into a community where members were posting to each other even more than we were. It's really neat to see that happen … it feels like we've organically become part of their lives.

Alexandra Smith, WhereBy.Us:
We try to use social media for two things: drive awareness around our brand and main product offering (daily newsletter) and create online community. So for the former we look at reach (and other stats related to our paid strategy) and for engagement we look at comments and conversations, shares, likes. It's imperfect, but we try to align our social media goals with our company goals = growth and community involvement.

Elizabeth Dunbar, Minnesota Public Radio:
Our org used to pay a lot more attention to social media metrics, especially shares and likes on Facebook. I know those numbers plummeted with changes at FB. At the same time, our leadership is really emphasizing traffic to our site and also minutes spent on our site/web stories. When I set up a closed FB group for an engagement project, me and our newsroom Ph.D. fellow Eric McKinley were interested in things like participation rate, number of unique commenters per thread and number of unique thread posters. I’m also interested in number of comments and volume of content but haven’t figured out how to measure that yet. I’m also experimenting a bit with the data social media sites provide me on how many views my posts receive in people’s feeds, but I haven’t had time to analyze that very much.

Beth O'Malley, St. Louis Post Dispatch:
We're up against a big pageview goal -- corporate-set -- so we're focusing on pageviews as our metric for success. As such, the focus hasn't been on social media metrics as much as site metrics. Personally, I like to see users sharing our work. I always enjoy seeing a friend's Facebook post to one of our stories in my newsfeed. There's no way to "measure" that type of share, but I do sometimes check on how our user shares are performing. We have a UTM code that tracks user shares from on-site share buttons.... With Facebook still being our biggest referrer, our focus as a social media strategy is still, tbh, clicks.

Add your thoughts in this Slack thread. (Not yet on the Gather Slack? Join here.)

On the topic of sharing, one of my favorite things is to watch and learn from what people say when they share. I’ll look at public shares and see whether people were sharing because they were outraged, excited, correcting information, adding information, etc. I’ve gotten great follow-up story ideas from watching shares. People will say things to their own networks that they wouldn’t say on the newsrooms’ pages.

A few related links:

This week’s callout: Do you separate your personal social media time from your professional responsibilities? If so, how/when? Do you ever step away from social media? If so, how/when? Weigh in here.

— Joy Mayer, Gather community manager

Case Study: How City Bureau Recruited Volunteer Coders to Collaboratively Build Engagement Tools

By Riley Stevenson

In 2016, Chicago-based civic journalism lab City Bureau started its Documenters program, which trains and pays community members to document public meetings and other civic events in the city. As the program grew, the City Bureau’s staff realized they needed a better way to keep track of public meetings.

To accomplish this, they teamed up with ProPublica Illinois and a group of volunteer coders to build “scrapers,” programs that scour the web for public meeting listings and use the details of those listings to automatically populate an events calendar usable by journalists and citizens alike.

Read the case study on Gather.

You need a Gather account to view this content. Request an invitation, or let us know if your invite hasn't arrived. You’ll find 91 case studies and featured projects on Gather. Take a look through, and then recommend projects you’d like to see us dig into.

We’re adding to our collection of case studies and featured projects on Gather, and we’ve made it easier for you to share your ideas with a new Google form. Feel free to tell us about your own work or work you admire or want to learn from. And thanks for your help!

Lightning Chats

Discuss a shared challenge, brainstorm ideas for a project, or learn more about a case study at Gather's lightning chats. You can also subscribe to a lightning chat calendar on Google calendar or on iCal. Here's what's coming up:

TODAY! Wednesday, Oct. 17 // Reddit for Journalists: Let's talk about the when, the why and the how of using Reddit as part of our journalism. Bring your questions and experiences, and prepare to be guided by some super smart folks (fresh off a session on this at ONA last month).
  • Bobby Blanchard - Social Media Editor, The Texas Tribune
  • Dominick DiFurio - Editor/Producer, The Dallas Morning News
  • Gene Park - Embedded audience editor, Washington Post
Join us on Zoom at 1pm ET / 10am PT for a 30-minute conversation. Click here to get more connection details or add this to your Google Calendar.


Jobs, Fellowships, and Funding

Check out our full list of jobs, fellowships, and funding opportunities on Gather, and let us know what we're missing. Here's what's new this week:
  • Editor-in-ChiefReveal (CIR): "The editor in chief will set the editorial vision, inspire our newsroom to do its best work and expand the organization’s reputation as one of the country’s most credible and excellent investigative journalism operations. The editor in chief will uphold the highest journalistic standards and stand at the frontlines of protecting the organization from legal and security threats. This position directly manages senior-level newsroom leaders and reports to the CEO.

    Our ideal candidate has a distinguished track record of conceiving and executing ambitious, high-impact investigative projects across platforms and getting those stories in front of large audiences. He or she has a proven ability to oversee compelling, relevant, narrative reporting that connects broadly with the public. This individual also understands the power of multiplatform storytelling and how to use our text reporting, data journalism, radio show and podcast, documentary and television projects, website, social media channels and audience engagement strategies to their fullest potential." Learn more. 

Community Updates

If you haven't joined the Gather Slack community, you're missing out on a lot of brainstorming, advice giving and collaboration. Join here.

Meet Meena Thiruvengadam, this week's Featured Member.

Name: Meena Thiruvengadam    

What you do: I’m a success manager working with publishers and brands on data literacy and audience development strategy. I work primarily with’s European, Middle Eastern and African clients. I occasionally contribute to publications including Travel + Leisure and Poynter and previously ran audience development teams for Bloomberg and Business Insider from New York. I got my start as a daily newspaper reporter covering the night police beat in Texas.

Why you’re on Gather: I’ve got ink in my veins and content distribution on my mind. I love my role at because it allows me to scale things I’ve loved doing as long as I’ve been in the news business — helping publications better connect with their audiences and figure out how to build and monetize those audiences. I’m on Gather because this isn’t a job that can be done in a vacuum. I need the knowledge, advice and perspective that comes from being part of a community like Gather.

One thing you want to learn on Gather: It’s hard to keep up with all the changes in publishing and platforms. I’m hopeful Gather will help me keep on top of developments without feeling so overwhelmed by the pace of change in media.

One thing you have to share on Gather: A boatload of insights gleaned from more than a decade of working in every kind of newsroom out there. If you’re a business publisher or figuring out how to find audiences for niche topics, hit me up.

One thing about your work that gets you especially pumped up: I love learning about how different publishers are approaching similar challenges. Helping publishers build sustainable publications is a big part of that and a huge motivator for me.

Who or what inspired you to get into this work? I’ve always loved a good story. I was a voracious reader as a kid and have a never-ending curiosity as an adult. A Chips Quinn internship at The Salt Lake Tribune showed me how rewarding it can be to learn and tell the stories of a community, and I haven’t looked back since.

Would you rather have more time or more money? More time. It’s the only thing you can’t make more of.

Links for ways to connect with you.
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