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Journalists Paid By Number Of Paris Hilton Mentions

by | 3rd, November 2008

ARE newspapers to pay journalists by the number of comments their words receive on the web?

PETER Wilby, writing in the Guardian, considers the state of British newspapers in light of Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross’s telethon:

Even the Mail – perhaps reluctant to go overboard on a story broken by a Sunday in the same house – didn’t make it the splash, though it ran a front-page picture of Brand and inside, Melanie Phillips gave her usual imitation of a Victorian dowager who has overdosed on laudanum.

Ross and Brand, she raved, were guilty of “cruelty and indeed sadism” and their behaviour was “bordering on the psychopathic”. Her column attracted 209 comments (mostly anti-BBC) on the Mail website, the Sunday story 220 – numbers well above average. The Mail scented blood.

The Mail sensed a scoop because readers had responded to one of its stories. Who needs focus groups when you have people who take the time to comment on stories?

Justin Williams, the Telegraph’s assistant editor, wonders on his personal blog:

As advertising continues to plunge into the abyss after stumbling over the edge of the cliff earlier this year, sales managers in Fleet Street are figuring out how they can incentivise their teams into selling more online after years of neglecting the web for the easy margins in print…

Maybe the sales managers could have their own blog?

We’ve always found it so difficult to quantify success for journalists. Is it number of stories written, number of exclusives delivered or some other nebulous yardstick?

But the web changes this and I wonder how long it will be before owners and accountants notice this. We already know who our most successful writers are by one measure – they’re the ones who deliver the highest number of page views.”

So success is in number of page views. A hack’s fiscal wellbeing may depend on their writing and how well they get on with the content tech who decides what news fits on the front page. And is Paris Hilton in town?

So which will be the first publisher to build a bonus based on page views into a journalist’s salary? Could you do it with your entire reporting staff and, if so, would it lead to a decline in standards?

And how long will it be before the hacks are handed sheets of top key words to mention in their copy – the hot topics web surfers are looking for – a word search approach to writing?

Meanwhile the online Tabloid Telegraph entertains its readers with “Celebrity Sightings” and “Celebrity Pictures”.

And over at the Times, Martin Samuel notes:

Did you know that twice daily this newspaper provides its writers (not me, I’m not on the system and you are about to find out why) with an update of the most searched-for buzzwords on Times Online, in the United Kingdom and throughout the rest of the world? This handy fact sheet points us in the direction of what words and expressions might generate the most number of hits, and could therefore be subtly inserted into our work in sentences such as “…Liverpool (No 32) may be about as efficient as French banker Jérôme Kerviel (10), and a Grand Canyon (54) away from catching Chelsea (62), but it could be worse; at least they haven’t been hit by a falling satellite (38)…”).

So the only thing that differentiates one newspaper from another is the writers and how much it likes/hates the celebrities it features. The rest is just filler…

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Posted: 3rd, November 2008 | In: Reviews Comment | TrackBack | Permalink