Newsrooms are busy places, but they all have experiences and knowledge that are priceless and worth sharing. Sometimes it’s hard to find the time to catch up, but now it’s more important than ever to create opportunities to share best practices, learnings, mistakes and lightbulb moments.

We figured a quick five minute chat would be enough to do this, so we’ve started scheduling coffee breaks with our brilliant clients to see what they’re up to - and if they have any pearls of wisdom they’d be willing to share.

We spoke to Charbel Khoury at Daraj to find out about his journey with editorial analytics and how he and his team are adapting to being a data-rich culture


First, some background...

The company

  • Daraj. An independent digital media platform, based in Beirut, Lebanon. Key monthly stats: 165k page view; 117k visitors; 140 articles.

The person

  • Charbel Khoury. Data analyst and journalist.

The tool

  • Smartocto Insights (since July 2021).


Smartocto: OK. There’s coffee brewing, so, let’s dive straight in. What did you hope to achieve by using smartocto?

Daraj: Mostly, my goal was to see if I could somehow automate the data collection process and reduce the time I spend on data collection and data reports. I want - and need - to be able to work the maximum amount of data possible as efficiently as I can.

What’s the main challenge you face?

It’s the volume of data I need to process. I’m still trying to automate this. The other challenge has been trying to calculate the KPIs for writers and articles.

How would you measure success in this goal?

It comes down to time and how quickly I can do this. My ability to collect, clean and analyse data as quickly as possible is key.

What metrics do you focus on?

In Google Analytics I’ve been looking at unique page views, audience demographics and audience overview.

The automated reports are really useful for our newsroom - I have three that are invaluable, and the one that highlights missed opportunities is particularly good.

Image from Charbel - Daraj

Charbel Khoury Data analyst and journalist.

What’s changed since you’ve started using smartocto Insights?

My data workflow hasn’t changed a lot, but I’ve found the automated reports to be really useful for our newsroom - I have three that are invaluable, and the one that highlights missed opportunities (articles) is particularly good.

  1. A daily report to check which topics we wrote about are most interesting to readers on a daily basis. These reports came in handy on the busier days, because we’re able to quickly explore which topics are hot, and immediately take them into consideration.
  2. A weekly report to show the performance of articles and authors during that week. These reports give us clear insights into our best performing articles and our top authors, which is great, because we missed this information before using smartocto.
  3. Missed opportunities. These reports come in handy on calmer days when we don’t have a lot to publish, because it enables us to lean on republishing those articles which have already proved to have potential on social media.

The other change is that now we use CPI, which has been really useful. This has taught us that simply looking at ‘article reads’ doesn’t give us the insights we need, because in itself it isn’t a very valuable metric. We’re now able to use CPI to generate reports of the best articles and writers. Those are really easy to understand and very straightforward.

What do you do with your metrics now when things go badly - or particularly well?

When things go badly, we’re able to now see the missed opportunities with articles and evergreen content, and we’re able to publish again - and maybe differently. We can also generate good investigative reports.

And if things go well, we’re able to see readers’ preferred topics, which we can then use to help plan future content.

What advice have you got for embracing a data-oriented culture in newsrooms?

Know what you need from the data, before you start working on it. You need a well-defined target. If you start collecting data without this, you won’t know what to collect. Having a clear objective means your working time will be reduced.