Between creative and quantified audiences: Web metrics and changing patterns of newswork in local US newsrooms

CW Anderson
Journalism: Theory, Practice & Criticism

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tag-as Digital Analytics & Online Gatekeeping on 6/5/2019, 8:03:10 PM

cites Deciding What's News on 6/7/2019, 12:37:01 PM

abstract How are transformations in newswork intersecting with changes in the monitoring of reader behavior and new technologies of audience measurement? How, in short, are journalistic ‘visions of the audience’ shifting in the online era, and how are they enabling particular editorial practices? This article explores a provocative tension between the now common rhetorical invocation of the news audience as a ‘productive and generative’ entity, and the simultaneous, increasingly common institutional reduction of the audience to a quantifiable, rationalizable, largely consumptive aggregate. The first half of article reviews the literature on the relationship between audience understanding and newsroom practices. The second half of the article is comprised of an ethnographic analysis of the manner by which increasingly prominent and widespread techniques of audience measurement and quantification interact with the newsroom rhetoric of the active, generative audience. The article concludes with some thoughts regarding the role played by audience quantification and rationalization in shifting newswork practices. It argues that the underlying rhetoric of the active audience can be seen as laying the groundwork for a vision of the professional reporter that is less autonomous in his or her news decisions and increasingly reliant on audience metrics as a supplement to news judgment. on 6/7/2019, 12:37:32 PM

excerpt There are interesting differences between the manner in which the literature in this media audiences tradition discusses industrial audience construction (seeing it as a process of increased rationalization punctuated by moments of technological change and group struggle over definitional standards) and the way that the more sociological, largely newsroom-based studies of the news industry have understood journalists’ conceptions of their audience (seeing it as an understanding grounded in ignorance and filtered through a lens of professional judgment). According to the vast majority of newsroom-based studies of journalists and audiences, journalistic responsiveness to audience wants and desires has been leavened by journalism’s professional selfconception and its deliberate, technologically enabled ignorance of audience wants. 553 on 6/7/2019, 12:38:53 PM

quote Occasionally we’ll buck the trend towards click thinking, if there’s a strong local news story or breaking news – we tend to do it more with breaking news – or if there’s good stuff in the paper. But, in general, moving away from click driven thinking is the exception. 562 on 6/7/2019, 12:40:24 PM

excerpt The key purpose of this article was to explore what I saw as a tension in this vision of audience empowerment and a growth in audience quantification. It may be, however, that there is actually no tension at all. Rather than rhetoricizing audiences as passive consumers of news that needed to be given ‘the information they needed’ by professional journalists, news consumers were increasingly being discussed as creative, active participants in the news-making process that needed to be simultaneously empowered, catered to, and captured for analytical measurement purposes. In this sense, we can see the tension between an empowered, active audience and a measured audience resolve at the level of increasing quantification. 564 on 6/7/2019, 12:45:06 PM


Automated Media: An Institutional Theory Perspective on Algorithmic Media Production and Consumption cites Between creative and quantified audiences: Web metrics and changing patterns of newswork in local US newsrooms on 6/3/2019, 5:52:39 PM

Many newsrooms now operate with comprehensive and immediate feedback related to various aspects of online news consumption, ranging from page views to time spent on a site/story, to ratings, to volume and valence of comments (see, e.g., Anderson, 2010; Anderson, 2011b). cites Between creative and quantified audiences: Web metrics and changing patterns of newswork in local US newsrooms on 6/3/2019, 5:53:28 PM

Why Web Analytics Click cites Between creative and quantified audiences: Web metrics and changing patterns of newswork in local US newsrooms on 6/3/2019, 7:40:02 PM

Quantified Audiences in News Production cites Between creative and quantified audiences: Web metrics and changing patterns of newswork in local US newsrooms on 6/5/2019, 8:35:17 PM