My Britney Spears / human cloning story

BBC world news editor Jon Williams is a bit of a latecomer to the ‘news judgement by statistics’ party. In my time with the Sky News web team, I made a special point of analysing the statistics every single day; and we had a regular weekly date in the diary to look back over the previous seven days, and consider what it told us about our audience and our coverage. I think we’re talking 1999 or 2000 here… so Jon just isn’t right to say ‘just a few years ago, audience involvement was restricted to letters of complaint, requests for record (sic) on the radio – and of course the staple of radio, the phone-in.’ Unless the BBC weren’t reviewing their own stats…?
He concludes that some stories inherently deserve to top the running order, whether the audience deems them ‘popular’ or not. And vice-versa: cute animal photos get lots of clicks, but aren’t inherently newsworthy. Fair enough, Jon, but I didn’t hear anyone saying the opposite. (He might at least have drawn comparisons with online news sites like Digg, where popularity absolutely does decide the running order.)
This subject always recalls a story which made me wonder if I’d pushed it too far. Having spotted a recurring trend in the weekly ‘most popular stories’, one of my journalist colleagues decided to open a story on human cloning with the words: ‘There could soon be two Britney Spearses walking the earth…’ 🙂
Always remember: with a website, you can see the sort of live usage data which marketing professionals in any other discipline spend (literally) millions on. And you’re getting it free of charge.