This week Nieman Journalism Lab published an analysis of how Gawker’s pageview-bait turn-taking experiment affected the site’s traffic and staff—and how their more serious journalism fared. It’s oddly good news…

Since Gawker publishes traffic statistics for every story, Andrew Phelps of Nieman Lab analyzed the gawker data. In his post, I can’t stop reading this analysis of Gawker’s editorial strategy, he found that:

  • Lighter posting load on most days. “On their assigned pageview-duty days, Gawker writers produced a cumulative 72 posts—about 14 posts per writer per day. On their off-duty days (and remember, each had four off days for every ‘on’ day) the same writers cumulatively produced 34, or about 1.3 posts per writer per day.”
  • Regular (non-pageview-bait) posts drew slightly higher traffic. “Those 72 pageview-duty posts produced a combined 3,956,977 pageviews (as of the days I captured data), a mean of 54,958 pageviews per post. The 34 off-duty posts produced 2,037,263 pageviews, a mean of 59,920 pageviews per post. That’s higher, but only marginally so—hardly the stuff statistical significance is made of.”
  • pageview-bait draws more new visitors, but big-brand advertisers may prefer more solid content. “Pageview-duty posts that week attracted 703,476 new visitors (people who viewed a post that had never visited Gawker before, or at least who didn’t have a cookie set). That’s 9,770 per post. Off-duty posts attracted 289,996 new visitors altogether, or 8,529 per post. The key to the balance probably doesn’t lie in raw numbers, though. A Gawker that was only weird Chinese goats would likely, over time, bore its readers. The more substantive stories serve as tentpoles for the entire site; once in a while, they’ll blow up huge, and they’re probably more appealing to the kind of brand advertisers Gawker seeks.”
  • Focusing on pageview-bait only on some days makes writers happier. Phelps cited several quotes from Gawker writers and editors about how much they prefer working under this system—which is one reason why Gawker has adopted the approach as an ongoing process.

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