Impact of web metrics on news decisions
Many news organizations are trying to maximize their online audience in an attempt to bring greater exposure to their work and attract advertising. Grounded in Resource Dependency Theory and System of Professions theory, this comparative case study of two divergent news organizations sought to identify how degree of pursuit of audience metrics affects the nature of an organization’s journalism. The study showed that differences in degree of pursuit led to differences in the nature of news content and in the nature of determinations of newsworthiness. A greater emphasis on metrics led one organization toward a lower percentage of civic issue stories, less story depth, a better understanding of online traffic creation, greater use of text and ideas from public relations professionals, and less use of traditional journalistic abstract knowledge to determine newsworthiness. Crucially, however, in the newsroom of greater metric use, a commitment to the traditional journalistic norm of civic duty served to reduce the differences between the organizations. The implications for journalism are discussed.