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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

What Do Readers Really Want from Their Newspapers?

Posted by on Wed, Dec 26, 2012 at 12:38 PM

I'm sometimes abused in the comment threads for the things I choose to write about—the endless policy wonkery, the relentless fisking of the Seattle Times editorial board, and other sometimes boring stuff like that. It's not that I'm unaware that most people aren't interested in the intricate details of, say, property tax levy equalization. It's just that I think these things are important, and so I use what platform I have to help bring awareness to the issues I choose. Sometimes my priorities are wrong, and sometimes I over-obsess. But I never really worry too much about what my audience wants.

But if I did fret about pleasing readers, I guess I'd mostly write about death and the weather, at least judging from the top 10 most-read stories in the Seattle Times this year:

  1. Seattle shootings: day of horror, grief in a shaken city (Cafe Racer shootings)

  2. Four dead in avalanches at Stevens and Snoqualmie passes

  3. Microsoft gets a new logo for the first time since 1987

  4. Massive manhunt after ranger slain at Rainier

  5. Suspect in ranger’s slaying found dead in creek

  6. Longtime TV anchorwoman Kathi Goertzen dies after battle with tumors

  7. Signing day live thread / Husky Football Blog

  8. Storm looms, with up to 14 inches of snow Wednesday

  9. Josh Powell kills 2 young sons in ‘an act of evil,’ authorities say

  10. Experts were off, but Friday’s forecast: rain, high of 47 — really

That's six stories about death, two about the weather, one about sports, and one about Microsoft's new logo. Those were the top ten stories in our state's paper of record. During a presidential election year.

No surprises. Had somebody been fucked to death by horse during a snow storm, that would have surely made the top of the list. It's not hard to figure out what sells. If I were paid by the comment, I suppose I could make a decent living writing about nothing but guns and vaccines. And if the Seahawks win the Super Bowl, I can guarantee you that story makes 2013's top ten list.

It's one of those interesting paradoxes about the news business. People complain when KING-5 cancels public affairs programming like Up Front with Robert Mak, and yet the only news they're really interested in tuning in for are stories about mayhem, tragedy, scandal, sports, and the weather. (And Microsoft's new logo, apparently. Go figure.)

So yeah, we're getting the news media we're asking for.


Comments (27) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
No. You are not "abused" for what you choose to write about.
The disagreements come from your practice of "advocacy journalism" and your decision to skip any facts that contradict the position that you've taken.
Disagreeing with the conclusions that you claim are supported by the stories you link to is not "abuse".
Posted by fairly.unbalanced on December 26, 2012 at 12:51 PM · Report this
Just for the record, Goldy, I read nearly everything you post, and with enthusiasm. You cover topics I very much care about and illuminate areas of public policy into which I have very little insight otherwise. I appreciate the wonky writing work you do. Cheers!
Posted by k.wren on December 26, 2012 at 12:52 PM · Report this
Eastpike 3
Every time Goldy says "our state's paper of record" a fairy gets his wings.
Posted by Eastpike on December 26, 2012 at 12:57 PM · Report this
Back in 1989 I remember at typical Seattle Times front page headline, Sunday edition, was something like Slug Races Begin!

So at least it's a little more exciting.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on December 26, 2012 at 1:01 PM · Report this
I didn't get my presidential election news from the Seattle Times.
Posted by Michael H. on December 26, 2012 at 1:19 PM · Report this
King Rat 7
I've read nearly every Goldy story here and on HorsesAss. Nearly always think they are worth reading.

I just don't want to see Stranger writers complaining that the media won't cover something. Because the Stranger is the media. So write about the crap that they think needs covering.
Posted by King Rat on December 26, 2012 at 1:26 PM · Report this
Goldy: where are these most read stats coming from? Is this online readership? If so, is this just most picked stories on the way to the sports scores?

Posted by cracked on December 26, 2012 at 1:37 PM · Report this
eclexia 9
The "most popular" stories are all one-off events. The election is an ongoing story lasting months. The news is repackaged every few hours under a new headline.

If you wanted to really judge the popularity of a story, you would have to add up the accumulated hits of many articles across the larger narrative. For example, how many different stories did Romney's "47%" gaff get packed into? How would the accumulated hits off all these stories compare to the new MS logo?
Posted by eclexia on December 26, 2012 at 1:38 PM · Report this
> Had somebody been fucked to death by horse during a snow storm, that would have surely made the top of the list.

Isn't that Microsoft's new logo?
Posted by rainbird on December 26, 2012 at 1:42 PM · Report this
Sir Vic 11
You could always just look at what Mudede posts, and do the opposite.
Posted by Sir Vic on December 26, 2012 at 1:43 PM · Report this
eclexia 12
The Stranger does well when the writers stick to their turf. The worse abuse from the reader comments, or at least this reader's comments, comes when you start writing about things that are far outside your expertise.

A good day on Slog has Mudede telling a story about growing up or discussing art, Goldy covering local politics, and Savage writing about life and sex.

A bad day on Slog has Mudede covering economics, Goldy covering nuclear damage, and Savage doing TV show recaps.
Posted by eclexia on December 26, 2012 at 1:44 PM · Report this
lauramae 15
The news has changed quite a bit. Not only what people seek in the print media, but what happens on the television news. There's this newer style of "story telling" on the news and KOMO is the worst about it. The reporter takes on a dramatic tone in her voice and wastes a lot of time with human interest details before getting to the point. It's so annoying.

Anyway, this is the stuff that people like and so not many are going to have the patience for actual information.
Posted by lauramae on December 26, 2012 at 2:31 PM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 16
My first choices are usually science nerd stuff. The Times doesn't interest me. The P.I. is more relevant. The P.I. top ten are probably more cerebral.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on December 26, 2012 at 2:38 PM · Report this
"The reporter takes on a dramatic tone in her voice and wastes a lot of time with human interest details before getting to the point."

Yes. If the subject of the story is not 100% clear in the first 5 seconds then they've failed.
Posted by fairly.unbalanced on December 26, 2012 at 2:42 PM · Report this
I wouldnt be surpised if comics page/editorial cartoon hits aren't counted and would easily be in the top ten most days.
Posted by david on December 26, 2012 at 3:03 PM · Report this
They are the top ten stories on the, Goldy, not the the top ten stories in the Seattle Times. I know you knew that, but would rather make some kind of point that be accurate.
Posted by avocado on December 26, 2012 at 3:35 PM · Report this
emor 20
You're definitely one of my favorites here at the Stranger, Goldy. I loved the stuff on the state budget. Keep on keeping on!
Posted by emor on December 26, 2012 at 3:38 PM · Report this
#16, which story currently on the PI do you find the most cerebral? NFL Cheerleaders at Christmas, or A Christmas Story:Where Are They Now, or perhaps Celeb Babies of 2012?
Posted by avocado on December 26, 2012 at 3:42 PM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 22
@21 Molester Traded Girl Computer for Strip Show.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on December 26, 2012 at 4:26 PM · Report this
@22 Missed that one! (Hadn't realized you were being tongue-in-cheek about the PI being more cerebral, sorry).
Posted by avocado on December 26, 2012 at 4:50 PM · Report this
A list of top read stories is likely to over represent single stories about one-time events. These are events that are big enough to cause large amount of interest but only a single article or maybe two. Stories that produce a large number of stories, like an election, everybody is going to be read some stories, but everyone is not going to the same stories. Sampling error.
Posted by dbgill56 on December 26, 2012 at 7:35 PM · Report this
TVDinner 25
My faves are the editorial fiskings. Man, oh man, does the Times ever need it.

But your budget stories? Need more bullet points. And tables. And charts. And graphs. Seriously. They're complex stories, and writing walls of paragraphs is not the most effective way to communicate them. I know that makes me sound like an anti-intellectual, but it's the gods-honest truth.

Budget stories are crucial. Please make it your new year's resolution to report them more effectively, which means more visually.
Posted by TVDinner http:// on December 26, 2012 at 8:00 PM · Report this
I'm quite smug that I hadn't most (any?) of those most read stories!
Posted by 1971 on December 26, 2012 at 8:42 PM · Report this
Don't be a dick, Goldy. There's more demand for good political reporting now than there ever has been. The fact that weather news and The Avengers attract mass audiences doesn't mean that there is no audience for other stuff. Further evidence you're wrong? Pretty much the biggest single author blog in the world is Krugman, a joyfully partisan wonkish beardy bloke. There's plenty of market for you out there. And right here.
Posted by Phil H on December 26, 2012 at 8:54 PM · Report this
mikethehammer 28
I've been thinking about this a good deal as I keep seeing commercials for Jimmy Kimmell's late night programs bumping up to the 11:30 (Nightline) time slot. Obviously Nightline hasn't been the same since TK left, but it's still unfortunate.
Posted by mikethehammer on December 26, 2012 at 9:07 PM · Report this
Holy crap! There's a local newspaper called The Seattle Times????

Now that is news to the rest of us.........
Posted by sgt_doom on December 27, 2012 at 10:46 AM · Report this
Geez Louise, Goldstein!!!!

You mean that "news cycle" whereby they repeat the same, story, 24 hours a day, as in if it's Tuesday it's gun control all 24/7.....if it's Thursday it's the "fiscal cliff" 24/7....

I mean, isn't all that entertainment stuff on NPR news, after all?????

Just what exactly is this Seattle Times anyway? I'm only familiar with news the Rolling Stone and Hustler magazines.
Posted by sgt_doom on December 27, 2012 at 10:48 AM · Report this

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