sooooo bad vibes at Insider huh

Well, it’s all fun and Max Tani jokes until the curtain gets yanked further back on the metrics-obsessed culture over at Insider, per Kayleigh Barber for Digiday in a report that basically serves as a State Of Digital Media snapshot that is alarming in clarity. I would say first that if you maintain a high blood pressure along with (somehow) a purist view that journalism should be Absolutely Forever Divorced From All Business Concerns, Ever, then this may not be the read for you because it will drive you COMPLETELY up the wall. (Like, if you thought measuring journalism by pageviews was gauche, wait till you get to the part about scroll depth translating into ad views.)

But even for the pragmatists who believe Journalism Should Make Money, it’s grim: apparently Insider reporters’ workloads live and die by individual monthly traffic/subscription goals, and it’s so bad that at the end of the month, people are basically trying to out-scoop their own colleagues…...which uh sounds like a pretty inefficient way for a newsroom to run? 

I mean, it’s all very easy to say how heartless this sounds (much less how stressful it must be to work there), but Insider’s attempts to tie the success of its journalism to cold, hard numbers has always been the central problem for anyone in digital media. Non-profits like ProPublica and The Marshall Project have found slightly more elegant solutions in the form of releasing annual impact reports, but answering to donors vs. answering to the regular ol’ money man are two different scenarios.

Honestly, the industry overall has always struggled with measuring its success (for example, magazines famously could never figure out how to count the number of times one issue of Vogue lying around in a doctor’s office gets read), and it’s an existential question that’s gotten increasingly weird as we’re still navigating the ephemerality of the internet along with all the shiny, seductively promising technology that comes with it, the latter of which usually ends up being either Very Creepy or just comically clunky when it comes to measuring something as nebulous as Human Attention.


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