Most Read Contributor in Switzerland, February 2017
One of the leading media houses in Switzerland, the Tamedia
Group, is testing since February of this year a new compensation
model for part of its online journalists (about 30 for the time
being): these authors shall get a bonus of some hundred Swiss
francs per quarter for the most clicked (actually not read)
articles, whereby team written articles shall also benefit.
In addition to this, the journalist with the highest number of
clicks is paid 800 francs per trimester, whilst CHF 500 and CHF 300
are paid to the journalist coming in as second and third. Entire
teams will benefit from a bonus of CHF 1'500 if they were able
to increase the total number of clicks compared with the previous
"Online journalists could be
tempted to put up lurid headlines or selecting shrill content in
order to drive up clicks."
With these monetarian incentives, the Tamedia Group intends to
motivate its online journalists to make "dry news agency
releases" more attractive for its readers. These
journalists should be motivated to present somewhat bulky but
important news materials in such a way that readers (or actually
clickers) perceive it better and recognize its significance. The
drawbacks of this new compensation are obvious: online journalists
might be tempted to think short term by e.g. putting up lurid
headlines or selecting shrill content that just boost the
Comparable models payment models have been practised since quite
some time in the United States and Europe. There, different media
groups have developed performance-oriented pay models over the past
few years. The Gawker website, which had recently been discontinued
due to an expensive legal dispute, paid to so-called recruits USD 5
per 1'000 visits, so some of these recruits were able to
attract up to 1,25 mio. clicks. The recruits were obligated to
comply with the publishing guidelines of the website, and not only
to go for a short-term maximization of visitors' traffic.
"There is only little research
on the consequences of "performance-based" wage models
for online journalists."
Two years ago, the stock exchange platform thestreet.com created
a model according to which a journalist receives USD 50 dollars for
an article when he records 60'000 page views within one week. A
similar approach was taken by a regional newspaper in Wales
(heavily protested by local unions by the way).
For five years, the U.S. American business journal
«Forbes» choses a more differentiated path. Not only
the clicking of articles counted, but customer satisfaction should
also play a role: when a consumer calls for an article from the
author within one month, this visit is compensated by 20 times
compared with a first visit. Based on this model, one journalist
was able to cash in around USD 100'000 in 2012.
"The pressure on journalists to
keep track of the quantitative success of their work increases
regardless of compensation models."
There is only little research available on the effect and
consequences of "performance-based" wage models for
journalists, since this was an edge phenomenon so far, what may
however change as one of the largest Swiss media group starts to
test the waters.
The pressure on journalists to keep track of the quantitative
success of their work increases, regardless of whether such data
have a direct impact on the pay. Indirectly, quantitative factors
already characterize journalistic work. The digitalization of the
journalist profession in the online age has changed the rules
thoroughly, as almost any number of data is available real time to
assess the editorial work (at least) numberwise.
(Rough translation of an article published in Neue
Zürcher Zeitung over this weekend)
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