Journalism shouldn't be afraid of web metrics
It often seems to me that fear of measuring the performance of news gets simplified by many people into worrying that the outcome will be:
'X which is trashy is popular. Y which is dull but important isn't popular. Therefore we must do more x and less y and distort our news values'
Which isn't the point at all.
The point of measuring and understanding an audience behaviour surely has to be to better deliver your news values.
Big numbers tend to make you lump things together into big audiences, and as Jay Rosen made the point in a very thoughtful essay "The Journalists Formerly Known as the Media", if the audience is no longer a 'mass audience', then the people making up the media are no longer a mass of people either.
When I think about metrics on a news website, I wonder why, as an individual journalist who publishes articles that appear on the web, you wouldn't want to know how many people read your piece, what percentage of them were moved to comment, who linked to it and what did they say, and all the other information that web metrics can confer.
Does a 3,000 piece about a serious issue have a very short average on time page? In which case there is something about the presentation of the topic that is turning off your audience. If you do a 500 word piece on topic x, a video on topic x, and an interactive explaining topic x, which of those resonates most with your audience according to the metrics?
I do wonder if this might turn out to be a generational thing.
Young journalists coming into the profession today are used to having their web actions visibly measured. If you post a video to YouTube anybody can see how many views it has or hasn't earned. Built into the interfaces of Twitter and Facebook are constant reminders of how much anything you have done online has been retweeted or 'Liked'.
And if you are in the habit of being exposed to those metrics about all of your online activity, why would you suddenly stop caring about them once you reached the newsroom?