Measuring journalism's impact from exile

bySudeshna ChandaApr 11, 2024 in Audience Engagement
Two phones side by side, one sending a story to the other phone

This resource is part of our Exiled Media Toolkit, produced in partnership with the Network of Exiled Media Outlets (NEMO), and with the generous support of the Joyce Barnathan Emergency Fund for Journalists.

It is critical for newsrooms to measure the impact of their reporting. Doing so can inform decision-making around content, audience engagement strategies and funding proposals, improve resource management, and enhance team morale.

Tracking impacts is especially critical for exiled media outlets due to the distance they operate from their target audiences and home countries. 

While there are several analytics tools to measure different aspects of your work – including Google Analytics, Buffer, Mailchimp and SurveyMonkey – it can often be overwhelming to decide which tools to use.

Here’s how to consider what tools to use for measuring impact for exile journalists:

What, why and how

Consider what analytics are most important for analyzing your impact, why they are important, and how to use tools to capture this data 

First, determine which measurements matter the most to your team. There may be some metrics – maybe it’s website traffic, for instance – that your team cares about more than others. 

Consider your audience’s behavior, too. If you know that your audience seldom uses Facebook, then don’t prioritize Facebook analytics. Consider what social media platforms are most used by your audience, and assess whether that is different for audiences in-country vs. the diaspora. 

Next, determine what it is that your outlet wants to do with the data. Gathering impact data just for the sake of doing so will only overwhelm your team. Decide how your team would use a certain metric before you collect it. This can help improve workflow and/or content.

Finally comes tool selection. Equipped with the “what” and the “why” of impact tracking, move on to find a tool that collects the necessary data for you. When looking for tools, consider ones that provide the data you want to collect, are easy to adapt, fit your budget, and have transparent and ethical data protection policies.

Exiled media outlets often operate with limited resources, both financial and in staff time. Therefore, it is important that the tools used are easy to pick up. The less time journalists have to spend on learning and maintaining a tool, the more time they will have to implement their findings.


Try not to put all your eggs in one basket. While you should certainly limit the number of tools you use to avoid being overwhelmed, some diversification is necessary. This is especially important to take into account if the country your audience is in censors the tools you use, or if tool developers stop delivering their services in your target areas. 

Another reason to diversify the tools you use is to make up for the information that one tool is unable to gather. For example, if your audience has to use VPNs to access your website, then any off-the-shelf tool that projects geographical spread of your audience will give you flawed data.

In this case, choosing to conduct audience surveys periodically and including a few demographic questions in these surveys can help make up for lost website analytics data.

Hear from your audience

Finally, make sure to have a mix of quantitative and qualitative impact data. While numbers may be easier to work with, direct feedback in the form of comments, emails or open answers in surveys can go a long way to inform a media outlet about the perceptions and on-the-ground reality of their audience. 

The comments sections of social media accounts are often teeming with messages, for instance. Some loyal readers also like sending emails to the newsrooms they closely follow. These direct communications, both negative and positive, can be a rich source of information for outlets to plan or pivot their audience engagement and content strategies.

Qualitative analysis of reader feedback, especially when paired with quantitative data, will paint a more reliable picture of your audience and their needs. Today, there are many tools that do the hard work for you. 

Any and all data analysis and research should be informed by a clear set of questions that your newsroom needs answered by their audience. Remember: answer the what and the why of your impact measurement before jumping into the how. Whatever actions these findings will lead to, collecting this data first will ensure that you keep your audience at the heart of your editorial strategy, audience engagement tactics, funding proposals and more.

Sudeshna Chanda is a Program Officer and Marketing Manager at Zamaneh Media (ZM), an Amsterdam-based Persian-language exiled media outlet.