Readership Trends Determine New “Front page” Articles

Newspaper image

Posted by Kristen Bramhall

What would happen if newspaper and web editors allowed readers to decide what was front page worthy? NewsWhip recently tracked the reader traffic, sharing patterns, and popularity of stories released by numerous major media outlets. After collecting the data, NewsWhip, featured by CBC News, recreated front pages and home pages of major media outlets. These “people powered” front pages featured the most prominent stories from the issue or site according to social media shares.

NewsWhip used Spike’s “Publisher View” a traffic-monitoring widget-to compile these remixed front pages. To determine what was most read and popular according to readers, the tool tracked each story’s shares and popularity on social media.

The media outlets that NewsWhip used to create “people-powered” front pages, including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Journal, and USA Today, displayed varying agendas of each newspaper’s readers. Buzzfeed– the ever dependable news, social, and entertainment website- featured the refashioned front pages and described the priorities of each reader according to their preferred media.

In general, the average reader of American newspapers craves hard-hitting stories, such as the conflict in Ukraine and the budget crisis. Following in popularity were features on health, human interest stories, (the teen suing her parents to pay her college tuition, anyone?) and features on popular travel destinations.

Think of your go-to news websites and other media. If your reading trends determined their most prominently featured articles, do you think the website or paper would look different? After looking at the “people-powered” front pages, are you surprised by American reading trends?

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5 responses to “Readership Trends Determine New “Front page” Articles

  1. If the paper front page was completely determined by the people, there would be more that the people could relate to. I work for the TD, and on my front page, I try to put the most newsworthy thing that happened on campus as of late. Sometimes I think students would rather see the features section on the front, because it features health and human interest stories. While people care about Ukraine (or, in my case, events that happened on campus), hey acre more about things that could affect them, such as the meat and cheese story that took the people-powered front page of The Guardian or Daily Mail.

  2. I find this very interesting. As news consumers, I think this trend may be what we have to look forward to in the near future. We will be able to pick and choose; to determine exactly what kind of news we will receive based upon our interests and/or internet browsing history. I find that a bit frightening, as it leaves some people isolated in a little bubble of being uninformed about the major issues of the globe. If all some people receive on their front pages are articles looking at the world through “rose-colored glasses,” how will this self-perpetuated news isolation affect their global awareness in the long run?

  3. ariellamiesner

    I agree with Brian. If a persons news exposure is determined only by what he or she seeks out, then we are going to have a large group of people uninformed about our world’s issues.
    I am speaking for myself here. I am guilty of wasting time on gossip links and entertainment sites. I usually find myself falling down this rabbit hole when I take a break from studies. I would really hate if those breaks of mine determine what pops up on my homepages. I would be stuck in a vicious cycle of entertainment.

  4. Linley Sanders

    I wonder if, as Ariella and Brian noted, this would change the type of news we write. If we knew exactly what the audience wanted to read (gossip or hypotheticals instead of more “boring” straightforward news reporting), would we have to write our articles from this angle? Would it be a continuation of the complaint that broadcast stations tend to go for ratings over accuracy?

  5. kristenbramhall

    It’s interesting that many of you have pointed out the potential “frightening” aspect of having the freedom to chose what we want to read, and therefore reporters being forced to report upon what they feel will be read, instead of reporting on what readers should know. I was a little started when I found the articles featuring the “people-powered” front pages, and I was nervous for what I might find. Do we necessary want to know how shallow our reading habits are? Is it hard to admit that sometimes we honestly don’t care as much about hard-hitting as we ought to? This all puts reporters of the future in a very interesting place to make some tough decision, depending on how this trend develops.

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