More Newspapers Tailoring News to Suit Readers’ Interest

Today’s news consumer comes to a publication with very defined preferences and interests, and with the ability to determine which types of posts are getting the most views, and even which posts are generating the most ad revenue, newspapers can tailor their offerings to meet these needs like never before.

This leads to the worry that journalists will, according to Jeremy W. Peters’ New York Times piece, do “anything that will impress Google algorithms and draw readers their way.” Will news, then, become nothing but a series of trending topics with little depth or global importance?  In Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab, Nikki Usher writes, “What about the concerns that journalists are going to spend all their time writing about pets, or Lady Gaga? The truth is that many of the newsrooms I’ve spoken with are smarter than that. They aren’t abandoning journalism principles; they see metrics as a way to ensure their journalism will be read.”

This is exactly what publications like the Wall Street Journal are doing with the invaluable reader data they derive from the internet. The WSJ’s Alan Murray, who oversees online news, says, “We look at the data, and if things are getting a lot of hits, they’ll get better play and longer play on the homepage.” But, he also points out, that if low-hit articles are of great importance to Journal readers or the world of business, they will get the exposure they need. The goal is to present articles in such a way that they become more attractive to viewers.

The Christian Science Monitor has been using SEO and the knowledge it provides to improve readership. John Yemma says: “SEO, at its essence, is about editors thinking the way readers think when they are searching for news. At the Monitor, as at almost every other publication, we work diligently to emphasize key words.” Many publications are hiring dedicated SEO staff to keep abreast of trending topics and keywords, and using SEO tactics to make informed decision regarding content. SEO, far from killing journalism, may in fact be its savior. It doesn’t have to change the news that is reported, but it can change the way readers access it and understand it.

Leave a Comment