Dispatches from the living amongst journalism's walking dead

Tag: metrics

Confessional: Shameless page view ploys

Lest anyone think I’m casting stones without acknowledging my own sins, I decided to share a list of the shameless ploys I’ve used to get page views for my employers and blogs. What I’ve listed is hardly out of the ordinary for any website, but I still feel bad about it sometimes.

If I could go back to when I was in journalism school and share the following information with 2001 Mandy, she’d probably change majors. I won’t say when these stunts were done or who I worked for at the time – but it’s happened. I’ll repent for my sins someday.

Feel free to add your own or others you’ve seen in the comments.

Mandy’s Most Shameless Page View Ploys

  1. Built a photo gallery when a story would have better served the subject matter
  2. Changed the headline and summary to reflect something far more exciting/scandalous than the story’s subject.
  3. Published an online story that only has a paragraph of text and a link to a competitor’s story.
  4. Given premiere position to outrageous crime stories even though news judgment did not warrant it.
  5. Published link bait from the AP and other services even though it was out of our coverage area.
  6. Submitted news content to Digg and Fark before waiting for others to submit it.
  7. Picked the sexiest girl out of a photo gallery to feature for a gallery in a prominent news spot.
  8. Prominently featured crime stories/pet stories/disaster stories on the site long past their expiration date to keep getting page views.
  9. Linked together completely unrelated stories to draw views to unpopular content.
  10. Published content that is indistinguishable from advertising/press releases simply because it will get traffic.

Can we forget about page views?

Working on the online side of daily newspapers for a little more than five years now, I’ve come to measure all manner of worth in terms of the almighty page view. That elusive metric is used to determine what stories are the “best” by newspaper execs everywhere – and it leads people like me to have our value to the company measured in daily traffic numbers (coming soon to therapist’s couch near you).

Of course, we use this measurement because it’s the only way we really know how to measure ad cpm. This method is about the closest we have to the way we measured advertising value in newspapers for generations, so we just stuck with it. Each reload or link-click is measured an an impression – even if it didn’t make an impression at all.

We as an industry need to rid ourselves of this antiquated view of internet value. Page views are a metric that means very little when you get right down to it. It doesn’t measure anyone’s engagement on a page, or even how many sets of eyeballs have scanned the headline. All it tells you is that someone clicked a link to this page or refreshed it on their screen. They might not have even scanned the page.

Call me crazy, but I say we need to move away from the almighty page view just to get back to the core of our business. We know news doesn’t make an impact by merely being spotted, it needs to be read (at least a little). If we really care about engaging our audience, we should measure actual engagement (in time on site) or at least the true number of visitors (unique users).

Why pat ourselves on the back for receiving hundreds of thousands of page views from 200 people who have loaded a webcam that auto-refreshes every 10-15 seconds? Is that engagement? Are they even really watching it at all?

More importantly, does anyone even care?

Recommended reading for June 22-25

These are my recommended links for June 22nd through June 25th:

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