Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

New Report Offers Tips for Measuring a Community Site's Online Impact

Oct. 1, 2010, 9:40 a.m., Posted by Marika Lynch

What if you knew not just how people were finding your hyperlocal website, but what they were looking for ' and whether they found it? And how that information affected their life and your organization's goals?

Knight Foundation has just posted a new report to help its Knight Community Information Challenge winners measure their success at informing and engaging communities. That entails learning about constantly evolving Web metrics and knowing how to zero in on the best data to gauge online impact and inform decision making.

Winners of the first two rounds of the five-year, $24 million Community Information Challenge are testing innovative ways to use new media and technology to keep residents informed about the issues that face them. Now they need to know how it's going.

The new report, Measuring the Online Impact of Your Information Project, is a 26-page primer for practitioners and funders on how to mine Google Analytics and Web traffic data for meaningful information. It includes an appendix with a sample dashboard of key performance indicators and free Web and social media analytics tools, including Google Analytics, My Tweeple and TweetStats.

The report was based on a review of 15 challenge-funded websites by Knight's evaluation partner, the nonprofit FSG Social Impact Advisors, and Dana Chin, a faculty member at the USC Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism.

The report suggests and explores in detail four types of goals for a community information website:

  • Audience: Based on estimates of each audience segment, organizations should set reach and frequency goals.
  • Content: Success (audience growth and engagement) depends on providing content/services that are demanded by the intended audience and not available elsewhere.
  • Sustainability: Donations, sponsorships, advertising or event ticket sales are among the ways websites can support a sustainable business model.
  • Social media: Organizations should use social media to engage influencers in each audience segment.

To meet the goals, the report recommends that organizers of community information websites should:

  • Monitor website traffic at least weekly
  • Get training on Google or another analytics, if needed
  • Clarify and refine audience segments and goals
  • Commit staff time to Web and social media analytics