Ashley Muddiman, research associate with the Center for Media Engagement, brainstorms with workshop participants.

Ten digital news innovators recently came together to visit about current practices and future possibilities at a workshop hosted by the Center for Media Engagement.

The group, representing major television, newspaper, radio, and online-only newsrooms, discussed a wide range of topics including how they define success and connect with their audiences.

During the two-day workshop, participants shared their news organizations’ experiences with online metrics. Despite an overwhelming number of available metrics, page views still dominate. Participants, however, expressed interest in moving beyond page views to new engagement metrics, such as comprehension and offline engagement.

“Focus is often on time on site and repeat visits. Newsrooms and journalists, however, have an obligation to measure comprehension,” said Tom Negrete, Director of Innovation and News Operations at The Sacramento Bee. “In other words, can an individual understand what was just read in a news story? That is what we should be measuring.”

The news representatives also expressed frustration about comment sections. Workshop participants thought that greater newsroom involvement could help, yet acknowledged that it would be difficult to find a cure-all.

“I’m not remotely convinced that commenting is the right way to get people to interact,” said Mike Dyer, Chief Digital Officer of The Daily Beast. “I’m willing to say that most of us would say that the majority of comments on stories have no civic value, and certainly commenting overall has no business value. So the question is, what do you replace it with?”

Suggestions ranged from creating a comment section beat to making moderation policies more transparent.

Other observations from the workshop include:

  • Although some news outlets are routinely involved in A/B testing their content, others are only beginning to explore the idea.
  • Most outlets have segmentation strategies, but the strategies vary considerably from tailoring news platforms based on demographics to changing the content based on whether a person came to the site from social media or an aggregator.
  • Participants honed in on humanizing different political perspectives as a way to reduce polarization. They also proposed tools to give people information about their own views and the views of others.


  • Natalie (Talia) Jomini Stroud

    Natalie (Talia) Jomini Stroud

    Natalie (Talia) Jomini Stroud (PhD, University of Pennsylvania) is the founding and current Director of the Center for Media Engagement and Associate Professor of Communication Studies and Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. Her book, Niche News: The Politics of News Choice, received the Outstanding Book Award from the International Communication Association, and inspired the early development of the Center. Her research examines the use and effects of political news content.

  • Joshua Scacco

    Joshua Scacco
    Faculty Research Associate

    Joshua M. Scacco (PhD, University of Texas at Austin, 2014) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of South Florida. He also serves as a Faculty Research Associate with the Center for Media Engagement. He specializes in political communication, media content and effects, and quantitative research methods. Josh’s research is focused on how emerging communication technologies influence established agents in American political life, including news organizations and the presidency. Before joining USF, Josh served on the faculty at Purdue University, worked in public relations at the state and federal level, and worked for a member of legislative leadership in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives as well as a U.S. senator.

  • Alex Curry

    Alex Curry
    Postdoctoral Research Fellow

    Alex Curry (PhD, University of Texas at Austin) is a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Media Engagement. His research interests include political communication and civic engagement, and he is particularly interested in how sports tie people to their community and to each other. From 2005 to 2010, he served as a writer for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. When he’s not working, Alex enjoys spending time in the outdoors with his wife and kids.

  • Katie Steiner

    Katie Steiner
    Communications and Program Coordinator

    Katie Steiner is the Communications and Program Coordinator for the Center for Media Engagement. Since joining the team in 2014, Katie has handled all communications and outreach for the project, including overseeing report releases, planning CME-sponsored events and promoting the project to the journalism industry. She previously worked as a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Bakersfield Californian and the Daily Nebraskan. She has also worked in corporate communications and public relations. A Nebraska native, Katie has a bachelor’s degree in News/Editorial and English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and a master’s degree in Journalism – Public Relations from Kent State University.