“Readers aren’t stupid”

At the start of last week I posted a piece about "reinventing journalism", in which I covered remarks made by executives at Google and Facebook. The original article was written by Robert Andrews and appeared at paidContent.

I had an immediate and pointed reaction to Andrews' coverage of remarks made by Facebook's journalism manager, Vadim Lavrusik:

“People want analysis from journalists,” Facebook’s Lavrusik advised. He showed data from the social network’s recent engagement with news brands suggesting "posts with journalists’ analysis receive 20 percent more referral clicks (than others).”

As I posted last week: "It doesn't really surprise me that Facebook wants to encourage practices that drive traffic, but that's not what we need most as we try to reinvent journalism."

I should have kept my powder dry for Steve Hills, president of the Washington Post. In a story first reported by Lucia Moses at Adweek, Hills hosted a dinner at his home at which he "… urged more traffic-driving slideshows over original Post photos".

Reaction has been predictably swift: at The Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal started a column by noting "Readers aren't stupid. They know when your product is cheap." Madrigal goes on to say that this ad-driven, traffic-focused mentality shifted two years ago (to which I respond, apparently not).

It's hard to make an argument against more traffic, but it doesn't make sense to use gimmick-driven ploys that don't take into account the reader experience. Maybe the Post needs a short-term hedge, but let's hope that it's just for the short term.

Brian O'Leary

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.