Does traffic change how journalists see the newsworthiness of stories? According to recent research, the answer is "yes":
The participants ranked headlines as more newsworthy if they had well-performing analytics, compared to poor or no analytics data. This confirms that journalists do take audience metrics into account when deciding on news’ value.
Happily, though, it has more impact when the story lies outside traditional hard news values:
However, the analytics’ effect was much greater on soft than on hard news. Furthermore, traditional news values also had statistically significant effects: hard news were seen as more important than soft news, and negative news more important than positive news. Combined, this suggests journalists mostly rely on audience metrics when newsworthiness is not “self-evident and undisputed.”
So, in essence, journalists think the same stories are important that they ever did - but other stories can come to be seen as important simply through traffic. That's a small step towards a deeper understanding of our audiences, but I'm not sure if we should be so sure that traditional news values really represent what people actually care about.
Beaten by Chartbeat? An Experimental Study on the Effect of Real-Time Audience Analytics on Journalists’ News Judgment