In response to @ev: these are our metrics for success

I want to go as far as saying that this article by Evan Williams alias @ev – who (co-)founded Blogger, Twitter and Medium – is already a classic, even though it appeared online today.

Because I haven’t seen anyone else explaining the difficulty of measuring the success of a new media company in such a clear way as Williams does.

He shares a great example from his own experience:

Medium had its biggest week ever last week — or so we might claim. By number of unique visitors to medium.com, we blew it out of the park. The main driver was a highly viral post that blew up (mostly on Facebook). However, the vast majority of those visitors stayed a fraction of what our average visitor stays, and they read hardly anything.

That’s why, internally, our top-line metric is “TTR,” which stands for total time reading. It’s an imperfect measure of time people spend on story pages. We think this is a better estimate of whether people are actually getting value out of Medium. By TTR, last week was still big, but we had 50% more TTR during a week in early October when we had 60% as many unique visitors (i.e., there was way more actual reading per visit).

TTR is essentially the least worst metric for Medium, Williams writes. And he concludes to say how hard it is to find the right metrics for your new media company.

De Correspondent’s metrics for success

At De Correspondent, we focus on three metrics. We trusted, like Williams says, ‘our gut’ by determining them. Because we’re a subscription-based outlet, this is probably a lot easier for us than for a service like Medium.

  1. How much people sign up for a membership every month (which costs 60 euros a year).
  2. How many members read at least one article per month.
  3. How many members stay with us after year one.

The last couple of months, the average of new members is around a 1,000 per month. And 60 percent of our members read at least one article per month (when logged in). 80 percent of the members don’t cancel their subscription.

Our goal for 2015 is to double the growth of new members per month and to improve the user experience of our platform. We need better navigation, dossiers and, yes, a search feature other than Google. These improvements will hopefully lead to even more active members and a lower cancel rate.

Author: Ernst-Jan Pfauth

Ernst-Jan Pfauth (1986) is the cofounder and CEO of The Correspondent, an ad-free journalism platform that has over 60,000 paying members. He lives in New York with his family.

13 thoughts on “In response to @ev: these are our metrics for success”

  1. I like how your key metrics cover acquisition, activity and sustainability of your user base. I wonder, though, why you basically chose a binary to measure activity. My gut feeling is that a person who reads one article in any given month is more similar in terms of activity to the person reading no article in that month than to one that reads, say, five articles.

    Speaking of classics: My all time favourite on this topic remains Stijn Debrouwere’s Cargo Cult Analytics: http://debrouwere.org/2013/08/26/cargo-cult-analytics/

    1. You’re right, we should make the tracking of that activity goal more sophisticated. We’re now grouping them in 0, 1, 2-5, 6-10, etc, but I rather see the average number of read articles by members.

      Thanks for sharing that article, on my reading list now!

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