What is WAN-IFRA’s Data Science Expert Group?
Convinced that data would be a breakthrough tool in newsrooms and the journalism industry, WAN-IFRA CEO, Vincent Peyregne launched the Data Science Expert Group in 2022 intending to arm practitioners with insights, feedback, and tools built around the priorities of newsrooms to grow audiences, deepen user engagement, and optimise reader revenues.
With over 300 members located worldwide and working within different media organisations, this group connects an international community of experts (ranging from editorial staff to data scientists, data analysts and data engineers) who share resources, experiences, stories, tools, and ways of addressing recurring problems.
Peyregne said: “The issue of readers engagement is a subject that has always fascinated me. When I created the Data Science Expert Group, the question I had in mind was to know if media companies were serving their readers correctly?”
One of the most important issues is of course, improving and securing reader retention for a news media company. One way to do this is of course to study reader trends, evolutions, and behaviors in order to produce better suited or “personnalised” articles. More specifically, after collecting raw data on how readers engage with their content, analysts will work in partnership with the editorial staff in the newsroom to make assumptions and decisions to guide them in the production of content.
Sascha Schmid, Head of Data in the Swiss media “Blick” and active member of the group explained: “studying data is a great way to get to know our users/customers and especially their needs and how we can satisfy those needs.”
Another member, Clíona Mooney, Subscriptions and Reader Insights Director at The Irish Times added: “The use of insights derived from data has become a crucial enabler in our newsroom, helping our content to reach the right audience in the right format, at the right time and on the right platform. Analytics propels our excellent journalism to deliver strong results.”
More generally, it is unanimously recognized that the studying of data has been helpful in giving the industry a positive push forward.
Concretely, the group aims to connect people with a common interest (via regular in-person meetings, online forums or conference calls) to help each other with their work in their respective companies, to help members improve the way they are working through the integration of data.
“The group gave me useful contacts to exchange experiences and whenever I receive a slack alert I go to read it ! The face-to-face meetings are especially helpful for both getting information and networking.” Said Trui Lanckriet, Group Data & Insights Director at Mediahuis.
Between 2010 and 2015, the journalism industry had been mainly focused on acquiring digital subscribers due to the lack of advertising revenue. “To get new subscribers, you need to first know your own readership; you also need to have good retention and acquisition tactics,” Peyregne said. “Therefore, many media companies and newspapers equipped themselves with data scientists/specialists to respond to readers’ demands.”
At the last WAN-IFRA Data Science Day in Vienna, which took place on the 25th of April 2023, every group member was invited to Vienna for an in-person meeting. Schmid highlights the importance of these sessions: “The data Science Days are inspiring and give the opportunity to discuss with like-minded people who have similar profiles, interests and challenges. This is very useful because there are not many people like us with this very specific job.“
Experts in this group span specialists in machine learning, who use artificial intelligence or algorithms to enable personalization, data engineers and chief data officers. The data group is gaining quick uptake with an average weekly registration rate of five to ten new members. If you are a data scientist working in the media industry, this group will considerably help you for the development of your data department and your research.
To find out more and join the group: https://wan-ifra.org/datascience/
The next Data Science Day will be on 22 February 2024 in Prague, Czech Republic.
Written by Jerry-morel Takou-nguelo, Stephen Fozard and John Mills.