Vox's Melissa Bell: Journalists should step away from 'click-bait mentality'

by Margaret Looney
Oct 30, 2018 in Digital Journalism

Web-traffic and SEO-obsessed journalists and bloggers can take a breather as digital journalism takes a step back from using page views as a key measure of success.

"We've learned how to disseminate our stories online. What's important now, and what I'm seeing this growth of, is the change away from the 'click-bait' mentality," said Melissa Bell, co-founder of news site Vox.com, at last week's Google for Media Summit in Washington.

Bell joined panelists Rami Khater, head of digital for Al Jazeera's The Stream; Bill Thornton, director of product management at media company Gannett Digital; and moderator Daniel Sieberg, head of media outreach at Google, to discuss how newsrooms can use technology to engage audiences.

The panelists talked about pageviews, long a measure of success for online journalists, and how to drive a conversation about changing metrics in newsrooms, whether at digitally native outlets like The Stream and Vox.com, or at legacy media companies like Gannett that are upping their digital game.

As journalists discover new and effective ways to engage with their audiences, the drive to pull in clicks is taking a backseat.

"I think we had to have a few years of figuring out these different techniques, and now we're at a place where the focus can be on creating great, quality tools and quality journalism," Bell said.

Khater said journalists shouldn't be using social media just to rake in clicks, but should instead focus on these platforms as opportunities for engagement.

Still in its early stages, Vox.com is trying to keep its staff focused on figuring out their editorial voice and not on the success stats.

Thornton said Gannett does ask its journalists to look at metrics, but that knowing your readers and staying on brand are highly valued among its staff.

IJNet Editorial Assistant Margaret Looney writes about the latest media trends, reporting tools and journalism resources.

Photo by Margaret Looney. From left: Daniel Sieberg, Rami Khater, Melissa Bell and Bill Thornton.