Thursday, December 22, 2005

Hard Numbers Wanted for Soft World


Len Baldyga passes along this missive from the State Department:

The State Department is conducting a review of its Arabic language magazine, "Hi", to assess whether the magazine is meeting its objectives effectively. During the period of this review, the print version of Hi magazine will be suspended. The Hi website ( will remain active. Hi Magazine was launched in July 2003 to develop a dialogue with young, Arabic speaking audiences on topics that affect them and their American counterparts. Currently, 55,000 copies are distributed monthly in 18 countries, at a cost of $4.5 million a year.

The purpose of this review will be to develop quantitative data on how broadly Hi Magazine is reaching its intended audience. The review is part of a broader effort to develop a "culture of measurement" and to evaluate regularly the effectiveness of the Department's public diplomacy programs.

The timing of this announcement makes it likely this cut will get lost in the pre-holiday wash. I understand the administration wanting to measure things quantitatively—that's what No Child Left Behind is supposed to be about, and that was a good idea on paper—but like No Child Left Behind, quantifying something as mushy as "how broadly Hi Magazine is reaching its intended audience" is tough, particularly when you destroy the magazine in order to measure its impact. Perhaps State will now rely exclusively on measuring traffic at the Hi Web site, which is simpler than trying to assign a readership to each copy of the print magazine.

Public diplomacy is not only a broad term, it's nearly impossible to measure neatly. I've spoken with people about ways to do it and that will be the topic of some near-future Beacon posts.

Meanwhile I'll be taking some time off for the holidays and only posting sporadically between now and New Year's.

1 comment:

TylerD said...

Perhaps they should rename it "Bye?"

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