Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

MediaWatch: The Mistake of Paying Journalists Based on Pageviews

Posted by Tom Foremski - June 19, 2008

There were lots of great comments on one of my posts this week on a job ad from the future:

Wanted: CMO for Startup - Must Have a Good PageRank

Wanted: Chief Marketing Officer for a Web 2.0 startup based in San Francisco. Candidate must have a blog with a PageRank of at least 5 and/or at least 800 followers on Twitter and/or 1500 friends on FaceBook or LinkedIn. Competitive salary, benefits and stock options.

The interesting thing is that I had written almost the same post February 1 2006:

A job advertisement from the future . . .

Wanted: Head of Corporate Communications for a fast growing Silicon Valley startup. Competitive salary and stock options. Candidates must have a Google PageRank of at least 5. And/or an Alexa rank of at least 750,000 or better.

Candidates with at least 1,000 Google hits on their name are also eligible. We will also accept web site traffic numbers from your posts/articles on third-party web sites. This is a senior VP level position.

I just got one comment on that post, which was great.

There are several points I wanted to make regarding the current trend to pay writers based on pageviews.

If I were looking at my pageviews and comments to decide on the types of stories I should be writing then I would never have written about this topic again. Which is why I do not look at the popularity of my posts in deciding what to write about. I write about what interests me and I hope it might interest someone else. And it usually does even if I have to wait a while.

Yet the trend is to pay writers based on pageviews and that is a mistake imho. However, these are the economics of the online media business model and that's what publishers are responding to.

Fanboys subsidy . . .

Do we let the popular articles about Apple fanboys subsidize articles on more esoteric subjects? That's what used to happen in newspapers and I say we should continue that practice otherwise we will just get content that wins based on the popular thinking at that specific point in time. We will lose a diversity of media content.

Also, there is a way to have your cake and eat it. I regularly trawl through my posts from nearly 4 years ago and I rewrite some of them several times in different ways over the years.

I've found that some of the concepts and ideas I write about are not yet yet ready for prime time and only a couple of people will notice them. But that's OK, because eventually more people will respond to my posts as some of these ideas become more widely understood.

Other publications could do the same, rewrite certain articles a year or two years later because more people will understand the content and find it relevant to them. But this means paying journalists to write articles that aren't related to the number of pageviews.

We need publishers with foresight and the courage to hold up journalistic practices developed over hundreds of years. We shouldn't have to reinvent the wheel.

But my bet is that we will have to reinvent the wheel because that's what happens whenever an industry is disrupted - it has to be rebuilt over again and the things that we once knew to be best practices have to be discovered all over again.

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