With Google News Consumer Insights (NCI), local news organizations can turn data into actionable insights and build stronger growth strategies that revolve around the audience.

In 2021, Google’s NCI team and Local Media Association partnered to help 19 local publishers learn ways to use NCI for business transformation. The NCI Shift program included regular coaching sessions with participants in LMA’s collaboratives, and spanned print, digital and broadcast organizations.

Some companies developed more refined newsletter strategies, and others grew greater understanding of the indicators that keep users on-site. These two newsroom leaders share some of their most powerful learnings from the NCI Shift program with LMA.

John Sahly, Digital Editor, Shaw Media

Shaw Media is a family newspaper company founded in 1851, serving communities in Illinois.


Before your participation in the NCI Shift program, what were you using for analytics and how did that change?

We’ve been using both Google Analytics and Parse.ly. As a smaller publisher, Google Analytics can at times be an absolute beast to tackle, and with all the adjustments and improvements that Google consistently makes to its product, it can be difficult not just to keep up, but even keep track of what’s new and how it affects your business.

The NCI Shift program helped us prioritize what is important to us and remain focused on drilling down on a few key Google Analytics insights to our business. We have a better idea of what data can fall to the floor and what actually matters for us.

What trends did you see in your data on the NCI dashboard that you weren’t spotting before?

The page speed insights on a per-page basis is a really nice feature, along with casual/loyal readers.

What actions did you take as a result of these insights?

We are measuring page speed at a more consistent rate than we ever have. It’s become a weekly topic for us as we look for ways to improve and make for a better experience. NCI and Google Realtime Content Insights have helped us to prioritize this.

What led you to launch an in-article newsletter prompt?

Newsletters have become a more important piece of the puzzle for us over the past five years. We don’t want to end up beholden to levers that can be pulled by outside sources, and newsletters provide a much better 1:1 relationship with our readers. An in-article newsletter prompt was one of the first topics during our NCI discussions, and we jumped at the opportunity once we saw how easy it was to implement.

What have been the results so far?

NCI let us know from their own measurements that we saw a 17% increase in newsletter users after March 1, so we’d say the results are pretty good so far! We’re excited about the additional opportunities this prompt brings, and we can fine-tune it based on topic or property, depending on how we want to next expand it.

Kari King, Digital Content Executive Producer, KFOR-TV/KAUT-TV and KFOR.COM

KFOR-TV and KAUT-TV are Nexstar stations located in Oklahoma City.


Before your participation in the NCI Shift program, what were you using for analytics and how did that change?

We currently utilize Google Analytics 360, Chartbeat, and comScore for digital. Now that I have access to the Realtime Content Insights dashboard, (a complementary free data tool from Google), I’ve added that to our metric toolbox. This realtime dashboard is different from the Realtime dashboard in regular Google Analytics and I find it helpful to look at page load speeds, recirculation, and who is reading articles.

What trends did you see in your data on the NCI dashboard that you weren’t spotting before?

Recirculation and page load speeds. I know that recirculation is important to keep people on your site, but I look at it as being bigger than that. I think leading the audience to similar, related, or other good and solid content is a great thing. Our team works hard on creating quality content and this is a way to see if we are leading them to other content.

What actions did you take as a result of these insights?

We are focusing on placing related content and other content inside each story. We have also started a new newsletter landing site, and this gives us different places to let the audience know about it and an easy way to sign-up. One of the things I learned in the NCI Shift program was just how valuable that newsletter audience is. We need to build it, and this was a great push to launch this new offering.

I can also see each day’s average number of daily visits so we can see how we are doing on the day. That was not easy to find in regular Google Analytics so having it on the new dashboard is efficient and easy to see at a glance.

What led you to focus on recirculation more?

Being able to see the recirculation percentage on each story is so helpful when creating content. I can see what worked and what didn’t to tweak how we are placing that additional or suggested content on our site.

I also see how it helps bounce rates as well as time on site.

What have the results been so far?

I’ve seen an increase in the recirculation numbers. This is a big, big win! We know we have good content, but we weren’t necessarily promoting it with good best practices and the NCI Shift program helped me understand what Google was looking at, what’s important, and how to grow traffic.