It’s 2019: Media companies have been aware of the negative impacts of the race to lowest common denominator digital publishing for many, many years. But it seems that not everyone is changing course as a result: News Corp’s Australian tabloid the Herald Sun is reportedly offering its journalists cash incentives for writing stories that attract readers and convert them to paying subscribers.
On the face of it, it’s just a slightly more formalised version of similar measures in place across many global newspapers. In the UK, Telegraph journalists compete to see whose stories help convert audiences to paying subscribers, and the journalist-facing analytics tool at The Times & Sunday Times also display how many subscriptions or sign-ups an individual story has led to. The danger is that, without discipline, those systems can actually disincentive good reporting – particularly at generalist tabloids – and continue the trend of a fall in news engagement across the industry.