Your Users are Not Like You…

We must understand that our users are not necessarily like us and this has always been the case in media publishing.
David Randall of the Independent writes in The Universal Journalist (2000) that journalists ‘often inhabit circles and have lifestyles, habits and tastes that are far removed from those of their readers’.
They may be older, wealthier, have different political affiliations and live in another part of the country to you.For example, it is relatively common for women to edit magazines and websites that are aimed at men and vice versa. This is not a problem as long as the editor has that fundamental journalistic skill – to have empathy and understanding of the audience.

Analytics Software

Luckily we can learn a lot about our online visitors by deploying analysis tools (known as analytics software). These allow us to access detailed information about what visitors do when they are on our sites. We can monitor precisely what they are clicking on at any given moment and the popularity of individual stories and sections. This provides the online journalist with far deeper understand- ing and near immediate access to data on the likes and dislikes of their users. The depth of data is far greater than is available for those journalists who work in traditional print or broadcast.

However, some worry that online news is becoming market driven. That is to say, news websites may become solely reactive to the whims of their users to generate hits and that much-needed online advertising revenue. This normally entails increased coverage of content that is cheap to produce and is popular with users.

As a result, websites may focus on crime news and celebrity scandal that has perceived shock value, at the expense of other types of journalism, such as investigations and international news coverage. As journalists we need to understand the crucial difference between journalism that is of interest to members of the public and the concept of public interest journalism. We discuss the meaning of public interest journalism in chapter 7.

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