An insider’s view of what happens when you optimize for pageviews

From Confessions of an ex-tech journalist by Bekah Grant:

When a story breaks, you could take a couple hours to do research, call to sources, and write a contextualized, edited piece — but by that time, 5 of your competitors will have posted on the story. You will look slow and readers will have moved onto the next thing. The reality is that original reporting and careful editing fall by the wayside in the desire to be fast.

Volume is also key. Most of the tech news sites post something at least once an hour and throughout the night, even when there isn’t news. Fresh content keeps people coming back to the site again and again, regardless of its quality.

The need for speed and volume is primary driven by one thing — pageviews. Pageviews are what sell advertisements, and advertisements are what keep most online publications running — particularly the small independent ones. Are they a good barometer for quality? No, but the reality of online journalism is that you need pageviews to survive.

In a perfect world, important stories would attract the most pageviews, but that is not the world we live in. Miley Cyrus and cat videos get more pageviews than stories about homelessness or healthcare. To write the stories you want, you have to feed the machine. And the machine likes junk food.

One thought on “An insider’s view of what happens when you optimize for pageviews

  1. Pingback: Why websites shouldn’t optimize for page views | A Founder's Notebook

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