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Rick Morrissey on Web hit mania

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by WaylonJennings, Jul 20, 2008.

  1. http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/baseball/cubs/cs-080718-rick-morrissey-cubs-favre-notre-dame,0,5534984.column

    I know there's a debate in here about whether readers care about this stuff. But beyond that, the substance of what he's saying is dead-on:

    This is dangerous territory for us newspaper folks. A lot of good stories have nothing to do with the hottest teams or people. Do we turn into a Cubs-Bears-Notre Dame publication because stories involving those teams seem to get the most "hits?"

    What about stories that are worthwhile for no other reason than they're interesting? Are hard news and opinion pieces the only things that matter? What about well-written feature stories that shed light on a topic or humanize a person behind a goalie's mask?
  2. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    I still don't understand how they measure these hits.
    When we first did video, I clicked on my first effort more times than I could remember. Time and time and time and time again *** looking for things I did right, things I did wrong. Slowing down parts and listening to my enunciation, my word choice, what I did with my hands. If we're going to do this, I wanted to at least do it right.

    The brass comes up to me late in the day and says, "Wow. This is great. You won't believe the hits that thing is getting."
  3. zebracoy

    zebracoy Guest

    I did it again. I clicked on the comments (see: Orlando Sentinel, George O'Leary). I cringed as I did so, knowing what I was getting myself into. But I did it.

    The responses, from the "enlightened" members of the community (as they'd like to think), included one from someone quoting the "May God have mercy on your soul" speech from Billy Madison, someone commending that person, and another posting as Morrissey's mother.

    How do people become so stupid?
  4. Montezuma's Revenge

    Montezuma's Revenge Active Member

    Morrissey's column pretty much sums up a columnist's existence.

    Do you chase the hits, because bosses are so enamored with that?

    Or do you focus on doing quality work on a wide variety of topics, trusting that the web-hit-obsessed bosses will appreciate and value that?
  5. crimsonace

    crimsonace Active Member

    I used the "web hit" thing to shove it up my pub's arse a few years ago when he complained about us covering the local pro teams "instead of a middle school game"

    Highest amount of web hits the newspaper ever received on a single story? My gamer from an NFL Monday night game. He never complained again.
  6. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Well-Known Member

    Suits act as if this is some new-fangled concept. Maybe the technology can now sort of, kind of track eyeballs on stories, photos, videos and other content on our Web sites, but we always knew that certain stories were going to appeal more and certain stories were going to appeal less. What people "want to know" always has had, riding on its coattails, a lot of what people "need to know."

    My opinion is, no one ever stopped buying the newspaper or advertising in it because it had too much of the "need to know" stuff. Seriously, as stupid as we think/know some readers are, do we believe any of them called to cancel subscriptions and said, "Not enough Britney Spears! Too damn much legislature coverage!"

    It was like putting a balanced meal on a plate in front of someone -- as long as you give them a reasonable amount of what they want, you have a good chance that some of the slobs will keep their forks and lips moving enough to eat their veggies too. I think Morrissey hits on this with his butcher shop vs. grocery store analogy.

    If all we're going to give them is the "want to know" stuff, we're competing with all sorts of mindless infotainment options and there really is no strong case to be made for our continued existence. If we're one of the few places that mix in some "need to know" nutrition, then we have to be clever enough to find a way to give a balanced meal.

    Don't even get me started on linking the numbers of hits to the writer's ability or popularity. Ninety times out of 100 at least -- my opinion, again -- it is the subject matter that drives the clicks more than the journalist. If you happen to be stuck on an NHL beat in about 20 of the league's markets, your bosses might think you are horsebleep if they judge you only according to clicks. If you cover an NFL team, you'd have to be a child molester and a Tourette's typist to have your hits suffer on merit. As Morrissey maintains, even the columnists will be defined more by what they write about than how or what they write.
  7. Hell, hits are outdated. It's all about visitors now.
  8. apeman33

    apeman33 Well-Known Member

    We laugh at what commentors post on the news stories on our web site, especially when it concerns either a drug crime or a sex crime. Accusations, personal attacks, dirty laundry....everything that is the worst of local humanity.

    Whenever there's an underage-sex perv story, one reader who calls herself "apple pie" always comes on to say that she was once a 15-year-old who had a relationship with a 35-year-old man and nothing's wrong with such things as long as the two are "in love." I've resisted the urge to reply back and ask if the older man was a relative.

    On a teacher-messing-with-a-student story, we did all the normal things abour protecting the alleged victim's identity....only to have posters out her, including posting a link to her My Space page and photos.

    We've had to ban a person multiple times who has a personal agenda against the high school principal (accusing him of being an adulterer and filling out profiles with other people's phone numbers and addresses that don't exist). She posts on any story related to the high school, including my sports stories, whether the story mentions him or not.

    Outside of that person, I almost never get a comment on one of my sports stories. I think the only way that I could is to say the girls' coach french kissed one of his players or that the football coach shot everyone up with steriods on the sideline during the game.

  9. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    Thank you. In fact, "hits" have been outdated for quite some time before even visitors went to the forefront. "Page views" are much more important, too.
  10. Editude

    Editude Active Member

    It's interesting to watch the most-emailed list change throughout the day. It seems that the morning has the lame crime/paparazzi stories getting good interest, with the meatier national/foreign pieces getting looks in the afternoon and evening. You need a mix, but you can't tilt it so much toward the pandering yahoos that the ever-blurring line between journalism and other becomes indistinguishable.
  11. WriteThinking

    WriteThinking Well-Known Member

    You make some great points, and use good analogies, in your post, Joe.

    The problem with this part, though, is that, for better or worse, as you point out, there has been a pecking order attached to these beats. Sometimes, perhaps, it has been done incorrectly, or unfairly, or in a different way than some other editor/paper might do it.

    But the supposed writing/talent hierarchy is there, nonetheless, and whatever beat you are on, that is, in fact, what your ability/talent/experience level is seen to be at the time.

    So, by extension, that, as you so delicately put it, is also your level of horse-bleepness, too.

    There is something of a perception-is-reality thing going on with that, of course. That isn't necessarily accurate or fair in all cases, and it may be unfortunate in many cases. But that doesn't change the actual reality of the situation.

    This is where editors/managers' instincts, judgment and experience can and should come into play, of course. Hopefully, they will kick in and be used -- as they should be -- for the benefit of his or her staff, rather than to its detriment.
  12. Bubbler

    Bubbler Well-Known Member

    Which proves my long held adage that "local" means what's important to those in your community, whether it's in your actual geographic coverage area or not.

    Nothing gets more hits in Wisconsin than Packers coverage. That's something that should be considered "local" by every paper that has the resources to cover it.
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