Chasing quality over clicks: An optimistic look at the future of journalism
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In a revealing post called "Confessions of an ex-tech journalist," Bekah Grant, who used to write for VentureBeat, airs a number of grievances about being a tech journalist: In short, she wrote up to five stories a day, often with no time to research or call sources, all while being constantly hounded by PR pitches.
Fielding PR pitches is a part of any tech journalist's job, but writing 5 posts a day to keep up with every funding announcement? That is a nightmare. I can also say from my experience as a "web intern" at a newspaper that the "5-posts-a-day" model is not limited to tech journalism either.
But that's the model of ad-supported web journalism, she writes. Pageviews, pageviews, pageviews. So are young writers doomed to burn themselves out writing fast, cheap posts, without ever getting the chance to dig deep into subjects (which is probably why they became a writer in the first place)?
Not necessarily and here's why:
We know that volume and speed can bring about lots of clicks. But increasingly there's a tendency away from counting pageviews and toward calculating the amount of attention readers give your site.
In a very good post on the blog Stratechery, Ben Thompson explains this paradigm shift:
"Nate Silver’s manifesto for his new site is 3500 words long, meaning it would take the average adult just under 12 minutes to read. That 12 minutes is then gone forever, a bit of attention taken from whatever other activity said reader would have otherwise consumed, and instead gave to Nate Silver. That is why Nate Silver is so valuable."
Not everyone can be Nate Silver. Nevertheless, there's a promising trend of journalism sites chasing quality over clicks, hoping that by getting audiences to really engage and pay attention to your content (instead of just blindly clicking and sharing) they'll also be more engaged with the advertising on the site which pays the bills. Now if advertisers can just break their reliance on the almighty pageview.