The Great Traffic-Driving Experiment

In J-school, we tend to focus on all the tools, techniques and strategies that are relevant BEFORE a piece of content is released into the wild. The whole issue of what happens after that has long been Someone Else's Problem.


Well, like all kinds of things in the media business these days, things ain't but what they once was. Increasingly, reporters are being held responsible for generating traffic to the stories they publish.


Yes, I can already hear the screams of outrage from the Traditional Media Curmudgeons on this issue: "It's not enough that we have to shoot pictures, edit video, monitor Teh Twitters and oh yeah, write snappy stories to fill a 24/7 news cycle -- now we have to turn ourselves into carnival barkers and shanghai websurfers into clicking on our stories? You want me to maybe mop the floors too?"




But here's the deal: not only is there a growing trend to tie bonuses (and quite possibly continued employment) to the page traffic your content generates, but for entrepreneurial journalists (which we all might wind up being anyway, but hey, that's a whole other discussion), it is absolutely essential to learn how to use modern digital marketing techniques to build, grow and maintain an audience.

And so this class project was born. The thumbnails below lead to the pages on this site that my students created -- and each of them was then made responsible for how many users, pageviews, etc., that each page got.


I subscribe to the theory that people learn and retain a lot better when they are given problems to solve, rather than solutions to memorize. In this case, I was hoping that challenging the competitive instincts of a class full of young journalists would help break us out of the outmoded "Sage on the Stage with a Powerpoint Deck" paradigm.


Along the way, I also asked my students to write a short essay about some of the underlying issues that come up when we start factoring in the kind of data that digital analytics can bring to decision-making in editorial content production.


In plain English: once we start letting what websurfers click on dictate what kinds of stories we cover and how we cover them, is it inevitable that we wind up in a dumbed-down world, where everything has to be reduced to slideshows, listicles and deceptive Clickbait headlines. So, in that spirit: You'll Never Believe What My Students Wrote About Whether The News Business Is Destined To Be Dominated By Trash.


Directions: Mouseover the thumbnails below to get a preview of the kind of content you'll find on my students' pages. Click on the thumbnails to be taken to their pages, and check out their infographic and story packages.

All items and materials copyright 2014 David LaFontaine

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