Google and Facebook have changed their formulas to deemphasize junky traffic in search results and in users’ news feeds. Facebook, for its part, said it would give more weight to stories that readers spend more time with and share more. Those changes forced Yahoo to tighten up its guidelines after traffic to its Associated Content community publishing business plunged and has sought to refashion itself as a premium publisher. Similarly, Demand Media, the onetime tech darling that scaled an audience based on so-called expert posts like “How to Boil an Egg” and “How to do Laundry,” has had to change its editorial formula.
Gawker, which was once at the forefront of directly incentivizing writers based on their traffic, announced recently that it would move away from the bonus system that helped put it on the map and that going forward, bonuses would be decided subjectively by a “Politburo” consisting of Craggs and other editors. Other major publishers including Vox, BuzzFeed and Forbes are eschewing traffic-based bonuses or looking at engagement metrics that measure posts by the time and attention readers give them over mere clicks.