By Conor Clarke
Brian Stetler has a piece in this morning's New York Times suggesting that one reason the Washington Post fired Dan Froomkin was declining traffic. And it's a theory. Indeed, it's a worrying theory: If it's true that papers are increasingly hiring and firing based on traffic, those papers would be turning away from a qualitative standard ("how good do we think this is?") and towards a quantitative one ("how much does this get us?"). The bottom of that slope is a world in which none of us are writing about the mind-numbing-but-pretty-darn-important aspects of fiscal policy, and instead writing about what how animal training can improve our marriages.
But I couldn't help but notice that Stetler's article contained no actual traffic data. Not a word on monthly page views or a peep on unique visitors. This isn't Stetler's fault: That kind of reliable data is tightly and privately held. Nonetheless, the important question is whether Froomkin's traffic fell relative to other content at the Post -- after all, everyone's traffic fell after the election -- and I don't know of any evidence that happened. So I emailed Dan Froomkin to get his thoughts on the article, and he responded:
I don't think page views were a major factor in my dismissal. (For instance, although they were "down" -- as were most other things on washingtonpost.com, after the election -- they were still high.) So if there's a moral to this story -- and I think there is -- it's not "watch your page views."