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What does success look like?

Last week I asked my editors to share the following with everyone on their staff:

Ask yourself

1)    How many page views did your work generate this week? What can you point to that you know is yours?

2)    What did you do to get your work in front of everyone who would have been served by it?

  1. How did you use social media to expose your work?
  2. What guerilla tactics did you employ?
  3. Who did you partner with to expand the audience?

3)    What can you point to that would show proof that you served a larger audience this week than last? What did you do this week that was new?

4)    How did your work influence your audience? What evidence can you point to that shows impact?

5)    What was the least valuable thing you did this week, and how can you avoid doing it again?

This is unusual stuff to be talking about in a newsroom. Our traditional goals — beyond the absolute basics of ensuring that everything we publish is truthful, accurate and fair — have involved such things as making deadline, getting front-page play and winning awards. That’s what success used to look like.

But in the new world of media — one in which user-generated content is on equal footing with original reporting, and in which the front page of the paper is of fleeting concern — we need a new vision of success.

Indeed, it is unreasonable for me, as managing editor, to ask people to succeed if I cannot provide a gauge for success. That is what motivated me to write these five points.

I do not believe that there is a one-size-fits-all solution for this or any newsroom. I do not believe that any journalist can pull a worksheet off the shelf and use it to gauge success. But I do believe that we each must find specific targets to aim at, and track our progress carefully.

Ideally, such efforts will provide bragging rights for everyone in this newsroom. At any moment, anyone should be able to answer the question, “How have you helped us meet our goal?” Supervisors should include feedback from these five points in annual reviews to shine a light on specific accomplishments and long-term progress.

Digital First social media guru Steve Buttry today wrote about similar concepts, though in much more detail. I will be interested in his continuing look at this important topic.

Every successful venture needs a road map. Readjust as needed along the way, but never leave home without it.

Read more of our road maps: Foundational documents