The New York Observer has launched a trial incentive programme for reporters, the Awl reported, offering bonuses to staff for web popularity and web traffic. The scheme was announced last Wednesday via a memo at a staff meeting.
In May, June and July, a first place award of $500 and second place of $300 will be offered in each category - pageviews, number of posts, new Twitter followers, number of comments, and external pickups. Each employee can win a total of $2500, the Awl specified.
Tips for winning in each category were offered, including using Google Trends, Twitter and other tools to find out what's popular on the web, using social media to promote stories, writing blog posts to provide extra commentary, and by ending with 'conversation starters.'
Is offering such financial incentives to staff a wise idea? Encouraging reporters to make an effort to promote their work undoubtedly makes sense, but the idea that journalists might feel pressured to write just about subjects that they believe readers will want to read is worrying, as it might lead to more celebrity coverage rather than hard-hitting stories. Pushing them to write multiple posts could also lead to a drop in quality in each story.