Helge: I add another comment, "If newspapers are no longer able to keep pace with the big players for salaries, then maybe we'll have to start offering a new way of paying reporters and columnists. Pay extra based on the number of page views that stories generate.
- Under the new rules, the commercial value of specific editorial offerings is estimated with precision, rewards and punishments doled out accordingly, and coverage cut to fit.
- Still, although network executives re-jigger their Tuesday prime time lineup to please advertisers, editors aren't supposed to redraw their Tuesday front page for the same reason. The journalism business has been different. Although news and commentary offer a setting both for public discourse and sales pitches, traditional ad-supported journalism has worked despite that disharmony, as long as editorial content is passably free of corruption.
- Jack D. Lail, multimedia chief for The Knoxville (Tenn.) News-Sentinel, writes: "Print media writers look askance at how ratings affect TV news, but in the digital economy, they face the prospect of eventually being tied to their advertising generating power, the almighty CPM, or advertising cost per thousand impressions.''
Editors are always struggling with government reporters to tell stories from the human perspective, and they're right. When issues are explained via their effect on real human beings instead of in numbers and figures, the stories are often more popular online.
Already, Gawker Media, with a network of 15 online publications, has created a bonus plan for its bloggers based on page-views.
- News organizations benefit too, the logic goes. ''This data should be shared, widely, throughout the newsroom,'' Yoni Greenbaum writes on his Editor on the Verge website. ``I think it's important for desk editors and reporters to understand the habits of their online readers. Desk editors should know what stories play best online; this is not to say that you don't report some stories, but editors should understand what plays best and where.''
The two realms overlapped less than one-quarter of the time, he found. He admonishes editors, "Stop being important and start being interesting.''
- Who could disagree? But chasing what's interesting has always been a lot easier, and a lot more bankable, than pursuing what's important. Big-city tabloids have done it for generations. So has local TV news: fast-paced, personality-driven, human-scale -- and hollow to the core, a civic blight.
What's more, the public routinely benefits mightily from stories that few people bother reading. Such is the power of exposure.
News can indeed be recast successfully as a menu of competing distractions. The question is whether we can afford the price of such success.
Edward Wasserman is Knight professor of journalism ethics at Washington and Lee University.
Helge: I'll comment about this later. The old Denton plan favored quantity over quality. The new one isn't much better, since it doesn't value time-consuming, in-depth reporting and might favor sensationalism. A page view bonus structure favors neither quantity or quality more. Sometimes cranking out posts creates the most page views, and sometimes writing one really good post can do the same.