Big Lead Sports started a rumor that USA Today's decision to pay its workers bonuses based on page views had been taken yesterday, April 7th. Poynter's Jim Romenesko received a statement from Today's Vice President of Communications & Event Marketing Ed Cassidy saying this decision had not yet been made.
Before Cassidy could release his statement, other publications like Mashable and Business Insider had also reported on the event. The event sparked a dialogue on what these bonuses could mean in terms of reporting.
Big Lead didn't state outright that Today had made a final decision. It said, "USA Today had a conference call last night and according to a source, the paper outlined a plan in which it will pay annual bonuses to writers based on page views."
Less that three hours later, Romenesko posted Cassidy's response: "Jim, USA TODAY has and continues to consider bonuses based on page views but nothing has been decided at this time."
Regardless of whether or not the decision will be made in favor of a page view bonus, Big Lead started the dialogue on what this would mean for Today. It said, "The goal, obviously, is to get writers thinking digital. But once writers start scrutinizing their page view tallies, and realize slideshows, rumors, and celebrities drive traffic, what will be the impact? And will other newspapers follow?"
The publication was well-aware celebrities drive traffic. In November, it released information on its editorial staff, which showed it had 27 entertainment reporters. This number was larger than any other group, especially politics, which only garnered 5 reporters.
Today has already attempted to make changes to its site as well to make it more desirable for advertisers. It has also attempted to attract digital enthusiasts. Business Insider pointed out that the page view bonuses could be another way to make Today a news destination because right now "it's not exactly a go-to source for news." This might be because, as stated on its Facebook page, the publication "is known for synthesizing news down to easy-to-read-and-comprehend stories."
If Today does decide to implement this structure, it will be interesting to see how stories and content are shaped: will it have a significant effect on quality?