August 20, 2012

Reporters to be paid by the page read at new #NOLA?

There's been speculation for several years within the newspaper world that some newspaper might eventually, in its online version, base at least a part of reporters' salaries based on how many page hits their stories get.

And, now, this job ad at the "new" New Orleans Times-Picayune makes me wonder if that day isn't now upon us.

When I see the word "metrics" for a position like this, especially with a newspaper that has just decided to become a non-daily in its hardcover operations, that’s the first thought that comes to mind. This line from the job's description only reinforces that:
As the Staff Performance Measurement and Development Specialist, you will be responsible for developing and implementing performance objectives to keep members of the team motivated and our organization on target and productive. Working closely with the Director of Digital Operations in this high profile, consultative role, you will leverage your strong knowledge of content objectives and data analysis tools to shape actionable goals and metrics for performance. 
Let’s translate and unpack that, while noting that, per the job ad, this is a newly-created position.

Here's what it really means:
  1. The person in this role will monitor page views.
  2. The person in this role will use tools like Google Analytics to see where such page views are coming from, for different stories, different reporters, etc.
  3. The person in this role will, in conjuction with the director of digital operations, discuss how to use SEO keywords in the body of the story and SEO search population boxes, Twitter-trending words in headlines, etc., to maximize page hits.
  4. The person in this role will “train,” that is, push reporters and online editors toward doing this.
  5. The person in this role will use these metrics to “motivate” the “team,” whomever the team is, that is, will use metrics to tell reporters and editors, if you’re not on target, you’re not here.

In other words, NOLA is now going to be Demand Media. Or maybe even something worse.

That, in turn, explains why there's still no paywall at NOLA. Because they know that nobody would want to pay.


And, mourn.

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