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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Plain Dealer Journalist: Cleveland.com Focuses on Quantity, Not Substance

Posted By on Thu, Aug 13, 2015 at 2:34 PM

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An anonymous Plain Dealer journalist, in an email to media blogger Jim Romenesko, argued that Cleveland.com has "dug its own grave" by focusing so heavily on the quantity of its posts as opposed to the content therein. 

"[Management is] currently pushing everyone to increase their number of posts and page views by 25% compared with last year," the PD staffer claimed, and wondered when exactly advertisers might start measuring audience engagement by time spent on stories "rather than just clicks." 

Romenesko published a staff memo from Plain Dealer editor George Rodrigue (furnished by the anonymous journalist) which ranked the previous week's (late July - early August) content by average time spent on stories.

By a significant margin, "Watchdog" stories outpaced those in other content brackets.

Sports and crime are still the primary draws to Cleveland.com, and that makes sense. With their abundant resources, the NEOMG / cleveland.com / PD staffs can cover the region's college and professional teams, and its murders, with more speed and focus than other media outlets in town (by which I term I certainly include Scene); but it must be a reassurance to reporters that in-depth / enterprise / investigative stuff is still the content on which readers spend the most time, even if fewer of their eyeballs are enticed in that direction.

The frustrated email to Romenesko is classic, old-guard PD bellyaching, but it poses important questions nonetheless. And it reinforces what those working in media's trenches have known all along: that media executives and advertisers still have a real hard time quantifying digital engagement, and efforts to produce metrics that advertisers understand are, in the main, incompatible with efforts to produce journalism that readers value.    

Here's the alphabetized list from Rodrigue's memo. Note that Black Lives Matter content ranked second overall in the Cleveland.com time rankings, though note also that this was the week following the pepper spray incident with GCRTA police, and online viewers likely spent a great deal of time with Brandon Blackwell's lengthy video. 

Biz 46.3 seconds per pageview
BLM (Black Lives Matter) 106.0
Browns 87.8
Business 63.3
Cavs 78.4
College Football 58.3
Crime 68.6
Drowning 26.0
Ent 29.3
Gallery Misc 15.9
Gallery-Misc 22.0
Gallery-Vintage 18.9
Health 74.5
Indians 100.9
OSU Football 48.4
U of A 85.9
Watchdog 129.9


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