Building a data culture at a century-old company

December 20, 2018
SCMP Updates
Content Provided By:

Korey Lee
Data Analytics and Insights Director
[email protected]

What does it mean for a news organization to build a culture around data and truly embrace it? At the SCMP, this is a question we have spent significant time considering. In the last few years, we’ve begun taking steps to not just use data, but to also thrive on it as a means for providing readers with high-quality journalism.

We have seen first-hand that relevant data can be used to improve the way a newsroom works and thinks. The following excerpts illustrate our priorities in how we think about data for an entire organization.

Would love to hear your ideas too — feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section!

1. What is a data culture?
A data culture is shaping an organization to prioritize data an important variable in decision making. This requires training, education, and perhaps most importantly, building relationships with each business unit to determine which metrics will drive their decision making.

2. Why is it increasingly important to build a strong data culture within a company?
As the South China Morning Post goes full speed ahead in its digital transformation, one of the key challenges is to consistently accelerate operational efficiency. While the data team has been built from the ground up in a little over 18 months, one of its core reasons for existence is to help every part of the business get better at one they do. We’ve established a culture of OKRs, objectives and key results, which empowers each department and team to align with company level goals and have specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals.

A data-driven culture helps everyone within the company to have a consistent pulse on how they’re tracking to these individual, team, department, and company goals. My team checks in monthly on each of their quarterly goals which build accountability and transparency. If we’re falling behind, people are better able to ask for help or collaborate with other individuals or teams on shared interests or initiatives.

3. What specific benefits/examples can you cite where data has significantly added value, editorially/operationally etc. ? What pain points did having data solve?
In order to build automated digital metrics reporting and analysis, the team designed, constructed and implemented a centralized data warehouse and ETL processes. This enabled the aggregation of data from over 40 disparate data platforms. We also trained non-technical team members to use SQL and other data processing tools to automate workflows and report generation processes freeing up over 75% of one headcount. This, in turn, enabled a recalibrated focus on developing insights, recommendations, and action items, eradicating time-consuming and tedious report creation.

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About South China Morning Post 

South China Morning Post is a leading global news company that has reported on China and Asia for more than a century. Founded in 1903, SCMP is headquartered in Hong Kong, where it is the city’s newspaper of record, with a growing correspondent staff across Asia and the United States.Its editorial teams are powered by emerging digital technologies to create innovative ways to tell Asia’s most important and compelling stories.

Against the backdrop of shifting discovery and consumption behaviours, SCMP reaches users across distributed media platforms including, smartphone and tablet apps, social media and messaging platforms, as well as our flagship newspaper.  SCMP is also home to Abacus, a digital news brand focused on China's tech industry; Inkstone, a daily news brief for those curious about China's growing impact around the world; and Goldthread, a content platform with a focus on food, travel and culture in China.