Quantifying impact of news for online

Quantifying readership for online publications and the impact articles have on these readers has become increasingly difficult with the advent of news online. Instead of readers immersing themselves in the morning paper over a cup of coffee, readers are now skimming through the first page of an article, often only because it comes in through a news feed or an email subscription to a news aggregator. 

According to Michael Rosenblum of The Guardian in his aptly named blog “Michael’s Rosenblog,” the former method of garnering “as many eyeballs as they can, in the rationalisation that those big numbers will drive advertising rates and so build the value of the site,” is no longer as important as once believed. 

Rosenblum explains this reasoning when he says

“Bigger numbers means a more disparate audience (and more desperate management), and the concurrent manipulation of content to match SEO ultimately warps the original intent of the site and so begins a spiral to meaninglessness”

This is an interesting theory, one that was originally created by Greg Linch in his blog The Linchpen. Linch discussed the idea that just as all news fits into different categories (investigative, celebrity, political etc.), there needs to be a different method of quantifying the impact each of these stories have on the reader.

Linch asked, “If we value impactful accountability journalism, why are we quantitatively equating it one-to-one to entertainingly impactful news?” He explained that the viewership of an investigative piece about saving taxpayer money should not be analyzed in the same way an article about the Kardashians would be. 

An attempt was made to reduce the methods of quantifying news impact to simple mathematic equations – an attempt to reduce uncertainty. Linch “envisions a tool that allows different organizations, their departments and other levels (education under local, finance under business, etc.) to customize how they define impact and have that transparently communicated to journalists, readers, executives, advertisers, sponsors, etc.”

These are all interesting ideas. Both Rosenblum and Linch have questioned the current metrics for measuring the news and its impact on readers, suggesting that there needs to be different measuring tools for determining the value of the news.

I tend to agree with both bloggers on this one. From personal experience with social networking sites, I have seen countless “intrigue and gossip” stories trending for days on end. Many of my fellow students, i’ve noticed, have engaged in the reading and consuming of mindless articles about celebrity gossip. The traffic on these articles is staggering, whereas the perhaps more intellectual articles are ignored and therefore receive a lot less traffic on the websites. But if someone actually takes the time to read an investigative piece online, they are usually prepared to invest time into reading the full article. 

I would suggest that there does need to be a reform of the way these articles are measured in order to fully grasp the impact online news is having on readers. 

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