Chilean newspaper picks stories based on Web traffic

Las Ultimas Noticias (LUN) - The Latest News - is Chile's most widely read newspaper and, for the past three years, has been making decisions on what stories to focus on and promote in the newspaper based on how much traffic its Web site gets.

"Those clicks - and the changing tastes and desires they represent - drive the entire print content of LUN," The Christian Science Monitor reports. "If a certain story gets a lot of clicks, for example, that is a signal to Edwards and his team that the story should be followed up, and similar ones should be sought for the next day. If a story gets only a few clicks, it is killed. The system offers a direct barometer of public opinion, much like the TV rating system - but unique to print media.

"What news, then, did readers choose in a week when a dozen world leaders gathered in Santiago for an important trade meeting? Among the top stories: Where Secretary of State Colin Powell went to dinner and what he ate (shrimp with couscous). Also, a rundown - with a photo of scantily clad waitresses - of which delegations gave the best tips (Japan)."

Orville Schell, dean of the graduate school of journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, warns that this experiment bodes badly for the future of serious journalism. "The quest for eyeballs has soundly trumped good, sound news judgement," he says. "Market forces have established yet another beach head in the publishing world, albeit, through an online fifth column."

He's got a point. News organizations should pay close attention to what users want and try to meet those needs -- and they should take advantage of new technology to help them do so. But they should also make sure they continue to exercise sound news judgment and don't just cater to the lowest common denominator.



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Newspaper lets readers pick front-page stories
Trackback excerpt:   Lots of sites let readers pick their favorite stories, but The Wisconsin State Journal is taking advantage of that online tool to help its print edition.... [Read More]

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