A basic intro to data analysis for communicators: It’s math, not magic.

If you work in any communications field, literacy in data analytics is increasingly important. You’re undoubtedly aware of this, but you may not be certain what exactly the discipline consists of, how it can help you, or what you can do to become better versed in the world of data. And, frankly, the whole concept can be intimidating — media and industry embrace an image of data analysis as sorcery performed by nerd geniuses bathed in the blue glow of their monitors.

The reality is that the key concepts of data analysis are fairly simple, and you’re almost certainly using them already, whether you know it or not. Below is a look at basic terminology, categories of analysis, examples of how they’re used in communications, and recommendations for what to do next if you want to learn more.

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Brent Merritt
A brief history of media measurement: The 90-year story of why volume metrics dominate digital media

If you’ve ever wondered why digital media analytics are dominated by measures of volume — pageviews, clicks, and their many cousins — you have to dig back far beyond the advent of the internet to find the answers. This is the story of how media measures designed for radio broadcasters during the Depression still shape today’s digital media economy.

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Brent Merritt
The state of attention analytics – editors weigh in

In this guest post for digital analytics firm Parse.ly, I shared insights on attention analytics from my conversations with editors at The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic and more. 

The consensus is that measuring engaged time won't become the single most important metric, but it does provide valuable information about how the audience interacts with content. Leading publishers are now using a mix of different engagement metrics, which vary based on specific objectives, to measure success.

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Brent Merritt
Can engaged time metrics help fix mobile ads?

I talked with Parsec Media CEO Marc Guldimann about how his company uses time-based ad sales to improve the mobile display ad experience for consumers while also increasing value for advertisers and publishers. 

His key insight is that advertising is not a zero-sum game. When ads are more pleasant for the audience, publishers can actually increase ad load and generate more revenue. In short, when ads are higher quality, everybody wins.

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Brent Merritt
The future of time-based ad sales

This piece I wrote for MediaShift provides an overview of the future of time-based ad sales, including how likely the practice is to spread and whether it can help sustain journalism financially. 

It also includes insights on the subject from several experts I spoke with at the Financial Times, News Corp and analytics firm Chartbeat. The key takeaway is that selling ads based on time may not give every publisher a boost, but it could benefit a large swath of top-tier publications. 

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Brent Merritt
New publication: White paper on attention analytics

I'm pleased to announce that my new whitepaper, "The Rise of Attention Metrics: Can a New Digital Currency Help Sustain Journalism?" has been published by The George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs.

It provides key insights on the role of attention analytics in building a more sustainable business model for digital news publishers.

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Brent Merritt