Chalkbeat Update: Learning More About Readers

In April 2014, Chalkbeat received an INNovation grant to enhance the capacity of a tool called MORI (Measures of Our Reporting’s Influence), which is a custom WordPress plug­in that helps track the impact of stories.

Their plan was to engage in a partnership with a technology provider to link the metadata stored in MORI with a customer relationship management application (CRM) to help Chalkbeat better distribute their stories and then track the influence they have in the real world. The metadata stored in MORI includes, among other things, the story type and topic and for each individual story.

Chalkbeat envisioned a system that would serve as the hub for project management and information storage for three key user groups:

  • Engagement team, which works at the network level to maximize readers’ opportunities to access, learn from, interact with, contribute to, and act on Chalkbeat’s journalism.
  • Revenue team, which is responsible for all philanthropic giving and earned revenue activities across the network (such as website sponsorships, paid job postings and events).
  • Community editors, who work at the local level to help grow our readership by fostering community-­level relationships via outreach and events and help improve the quality of Chalkbeat’s reporting by gathering sources and feedback from readers.

Since Chalkbeat wasn’t able to identify one CRM solution that met all of their needs, they decided to break the project into two parts. And because fundraising was the most pressing and well-­defined of all their needs, they decided to start there in partnership with Incadence, a firm that offers SalesForce customization. As a result, Chalkbeat now has a central repository for Foundation prospecting, donor cultivation, and grants management, plus also for tracking earned revenue sources.

While the initial goal was to link MORI to a CRM to help with distribution, the exploratory process, including a great deal of market and audience research as well as a “tryout” contract with PressPoint, has led Chalkbeat to a different approach.

In April, Chalkbeat reached out to INN to request a no­-cost extension to use their remaining INNovation Fund resources (about $6,000) to build a second CRM in time for the start of the 2015/16 school year. The goal of the revised project is to build a system that helps the Chalkbeat team track readers, their interests and their interactions with Chalkbeat. The CRM, which likely will be hosted in their WordPress backend, will act as a source database for reporters and an outreach and relationship management tool for community editors.

Ultimately, the goal is to learn who Chalkbeat readers are, what they want and grow readership. The CRM will track data within these main categories:

  • Data about existing readers.​ These are newsletter subscribers, people staffers meet at events, sources, donors, anyone who tell us that they read Chalkbeat. The system should be able to group and query readers based on a variety of data points. It will also be important for each field entry to have a “last updated” line so that Chalkbeat knows which information is most up to date.
  • Data about distribution partners.​ Any group of people who can help Chalkbeat reach their target audience. This can include news organizations, community groups, advocacy organizations, schools, districts, CMOs, etc.
  • Data about events.​ This will include data points about Chalkbeat events, such as reader feedback meetings or content events, as well as events that other organizations host that Chalkbeat attends for outreach purposes.

Chalkbeat will make its final report on this project in October.