Totally. I have luckily been spared the focus on clickbait, but anecdotally I’ve heard that the drive for measurable hits and re-posting is pretty pervasive. When I was Editor of …might be good, I know my director went through Google Analytics on a biweekly or monthly basis to collect data on the issues. He was generally impressed with me and told me that our subscribers, hit numbers, and amount of time spent on a page went up during my tenure, with the Editor’s Letter being the most-clicked-on page. For that reason, I started writing more about goings-on in the TX art world, because we were a nonprofit that received funding from various sources in state.
In my current job, I’ve found that titles of articles have sometimes been truncated and sensationalized a notch to attract more hits, but I haven’t had a ton of hardline criticism about the way I write. I have gotten some notes about using words that are too sophisticated for the website (Artinfo), but I don’t know how common that editorial attitude is. (The Editor in Chief is formerly of the New York Times, which of course has different language standards.)
There are a lot of opinions coming from various wings – some positive, some critical – about how the circulationist incentives of online production not only compel a user to become a self-brander, but also shift the measure of critical evaluation from any single piece of content to the branding strategy at large. I feel apprehensive talking about “stakes” in any qualitative sense here, as I think that emergent forms of online writing – and the user strategies attendant to them – require the terms of critique, in turn, to expand. And it seems like that’s only beginning to happen.
That said, we can already see how circulationist incentives naturalize cultural capital as sufficient compensation for content generation; this carries one series of labor considerations on a platform like Facebook, and another when we are dealing with online publishing venues, such as art journals. While it’s thus important to understand how online and offline writing may differ, we should be insistent that their relationship to remuneration must not.
Yes, but I find it interesting how many galleries still place more importance on the print review. As a writer who publishes both online and off, I also find it incredibly curious how writing is devalued online, especially among the more active blog sites that publish content daily (or relentlessly?).
Yes and no. It depends on what publication I am writing for, and what kind of writing I am producing, and so on.
Yes I suppose. I do feel more self conscious of what I say if something will immediately be put online and can be more easily circulated/distributed, because information can get into the hands of those who do not fully understand the context of the writing and can end up being caught up in the sensationalism of share and comment culture, which for me, can be very dangerous, just look at the racism and bigotry on the Guardian‘s Comment is Free articles as one example. When something is not freely available online, there is a formal exchange between reader/writer – and the person is either paying or seeking to be engaging with your writing in a much more considered way. I appreciate and respect that.
Some of this maybe was addressed above with regard to measurable circulation, but I think there is more at stake in online writing because there is generally more crap to sift through. Print generally has a better editorial process of weeding out content that is either irrelevant or ill considered. For me at least, I feel that online writing has to contend with a lot more…trolling(?). Or let me put it this way: what’s at stake with online writing is that it can stack up against a print publication with a long standing reputation of high quality. In order to compete with those publications, the writing must stand up (or stand apart) against the backdrop of a print legacy. This is a lot to contend with, and as a result I think of tis as being one of my responsibilities as an online arts writer.
It depends. I mean people have always wanted to sell books or magazines. But yeah now there are more complex metrics too, which people internalize or set as explicit goals. We all know the weird doggie treat feeling of likes and faves, as Hannah Black recently described it.
I love that something can go viral and you can reach audiences that you would never reach if you were only in print. However, I don’t like being judged as a publication based on more quantifiable elements on the internet. What I mean is, being read by 50 people a day online is seen as an underachivement whereas having a circulation of 500 monthly for a print publication is acceptable. We need to support niche online publications and not underestimate their achievement of having 50 people come back consistently!
There is absolutely an emphasis on measurable circulation online because that’s how publications make money. It’s different if the publication exists outside the usual monetary ecosystem—as many art publications do, but I tend to write mostly for mainstream outlets lately. For me personally, stakes are high to get a work to go viral or get attention online. That pressure might come mostly from myself, since editors are happy with pieces regardless, but impacting the online discourse is ultimately the goal of every article.
Definitely. Writing for the internet is weirdly schizophrenic — anything you do could be totally ignored, go viral, or land somewhere in Google purgatory and only show up when potential employers or romantic partners want to look you up. In any case, things follow you around, and there’s no accounting for what can happen when the wrong (or right) person finds them. Strange that a platform that seems to invite irrelevance by enabling endless production also has an unlimited memory.