A young acquaintance was applying for an online reporting job at an internationally renowned news organization.
But the interviewer did not focus on the job candidate's articles. He wanted to know more about the metrics of audience engagement with the candidate's stories -- time spent, social sharing, search traffic.
How had the candidate used social media to capture readers? How effective were the tactics? What measurement tools had he used to gauge effectiveness?
In other words, did this job candidate understand how to capture and interact with the audience on the web?
To get a job, know the audience
Of course, the editor had already read the candidate's stories. Of course, the quality of the writing and reporting was important. The point is that news organizations today are all multimedia publishers and they expect graduates to bring them a new set of skills.
It used to be that reporters and editors knew little about their audiences and how the readers and viewers interacted with their stories. The audience came to them.
Journalists didn't have to go get the audience. Marketing was a dirty word. (Television, of course, was better than print at measurement, and could produce overnight ratings of programs.)
But today, with so much competition for attention online, news organizations and journalists can't afford to be ignorant of what the public thinks of their stories.
Journalists are realizing that it is becoming a job requirement for them to market their work. They have to pull the audience in, not just push the content out. They have to be community managers.
Selling serious journalism
It is not a question of pandering and giving the audience the junk food that it craves. Organizations that are spending time and money on in-depth reporting are seeking ways to attract more attention to serious journalism.
Investigative journalists are turning to social media to help attract attention to their work. (Lauren Fuhrmann of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism has tips for measuring stories' impact and audience engagement.)
Academic researchers are trying to predict the shelf life of an online article based on how social media react to it when it is first published.
Gateway to knowledge and revenue
And, according to Frederic Filloux and Jean-Louis Gassee of MondayNote.com, the article or report is not the end of the journalist's and publisher's work: it is just the beginning.
In the good old days, when the newscast finished or the paper went to press, it was time to take a break. Now, the survival of the business depends on using the article or report as the jumping-off point to showing users ancillary products and services.
The survival of the brand depends on its being a useful gateway to deeper knowledge of a subject.
And now the question is, where can journalists learn those skills? The answer today is not necessarily at a university.
This post originally appeared on the blog News Entrepreneurs. It is published on IJNet with permission.
James Breiner is a consultant in online journalism and leadership. He is a former co-director of the Global Business Journalism Program at Tsinghua University and a former Knight International Journalism Fellow who launched and directed the Center for Digital Journalism at the University of Guadalajara. He is bilingual in Spanish and English. You can follow him on Twitter here.
Image via Flickr user greyeweed with a Creative Commons license.