Performance-related Pay For Journalists and Unofficial Blogging

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth
Online, we have the ability to see directly what overall contribution journalists are playing to the success of a publication. It’s fairly logical that any company would seek to give greater rewards to its best performers, and encourage others to respond more closely to user needs. The “one shot” purchase of a magazine has long concealed the fact that some parts of it go all but unread. On the internet, with decent metrics, you have nowhere to hide.
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That said, we really aren’t anywhere near the point we need to be on metrics just yet. If any company were to implement this, they’d need detailed, robust metrics that can both be measured in a consistent way, and which can be fed back to the journalists in real time. Without that information, the journalists are working in the dark, and it’s not fair to set targets like that without also providing the tools they need to meet them. 
As Jim points out, there’s an interesting conversation to be had here, about how you measure an individual’s contribution to an online publication, and how you reward that. But that conversation will be stifled if journalists always respond with the knee-jerk reaction that this means less pay. If you’re good, and your contribution is measurable, there is no reason that this couldn’t lead to better pay.
I exist in an odd place, suspended between the world of bloggers, who live and die by their metrics, and journalists, who seem to view them as some evil irrelevance imposed on them by greedy publishers. In all honesty, I find myself having more sympathy with the bloggers – who view metrics as a clear indication of what their readers like – than the journalists. All too often conversations between journalists about the nature of their trade exclude serving the readers as part of it. And that’s just plain worrying. 
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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.