"We all know that some pageviews are worth more than others," writes Gawker Media honcho Nick Denton today in an internal memo. "Think of an exclusive such as Gawker's embassy hazing pics, Deadspin's expose of ESPN's horndoggery, Gizmodo's first look of the new Microsoft tablet or io9's Avatar review. An item which gets picked up and draws in new visitors is worth more than a catnip slideshow that our existing readers can't help but click upon."
So we're shifting to a new number that more accurately reflects the growth of our audience. This target will encourage original reporting and original thought. The system will reward sites which recruit new readers rather than pandering to a well-established clique. Our editorial will be better as a result.
The target is called "US monthly uniques." It represents a measure of each site's domestic audience. This is the figure that journalists cite when judging a site's competitive position. It's also the metric by which advertisers decide which sites they will shower with dollars. Finally, a site with plenty of genuine uniques is one that has good growth prospects. Each of those first-time visitors is a potential convert.
What does this mean for the writers-and their pay?
The 2010 system is pretty similar to the one we have had. The individual and site bonuses will be consolidated. Each site will be given a target. The initial target is simply the average US uniques of the last 12 months…. Let's take an example. io9's monthly US uniques started 2008 at about the 800,000 level.
The target for the first three months of this year is 1.06m. If the site were to hit 1.2m, that would represent 13% over the target. Writers and editors would receive an average of about 13% bonus in addition to their salary or fees.
The distribution of the bonus pool will be at the discretion of the site's editor-in-chief, so some will receive more and some none at all. The lead editor may also decide to "bet" part of this bonus pool. For instance she or he might decide to offer a bounty for a spy photo which would boost the site's uniques that month. Other rules can be clarified with Scott Kidder, our new head of editorial operations.
The tech team will be making more data available so you can see which stories are spreading. In the first instance, we will introduce a count that shows the number of mentions on Twitter. Tom and his colleagues will also display external referrals for each item. Later in the year you can expect those stories that strike a chord to get even greater prominence on the front page — and to remain there much longer.
But it's mainly up to you — by which I mean you and your editorial colleagues. What can you do to bring in new visitors? Well, first of all, simply keep doing what you're doing right now! Most of the stories that resonate are also stories with high pageviews — with the flames that everyone so prizes.
Over time I'd hope writers will focus more of their energies on the stories that have the potential to break out on Twitter, Facebook or in TV coverage — which shouldn't be that big a challenge. It just means you have to be even more original, even more provocative or even more of a hustler than usual.
Happy New Year!