The L.A. Times‘s Tim Rutten has a column about media coverage of the death of Anna Nicole Smith. While noting that wall-to-wall TV coverage was to be expected, there was a new twist:
What was different here was the way in which she made the leap from tabloid covers to the front pages of ostensibly serious newspapers.
The mainstream journalistic coverage of Smith’s death is among the first such stories driven, in large part, by an editorial perception of public interest derived mainly from Internet traffic. Throughout the afternoon Thursday, editors across the country watched the number of “hits” recorded for online items about Smith’s death. These days, it’s the rare newspaper whose meeting to discuss the content of the next day’s edition doesn’t include a recitation of the most popular stories on the paper’s website. It’s a safe bet that those numbers helped shove Anna Nicole Smith onto a lot of front pages.
Rutten warns of the dangers of newspapers falling prey to the “numbers game” of chasing Internet hits, and says:
Standing on the cusp of this inevitable transformation, it’s a good moment for American newspapers to take a reflective breath to consider just how they want to play this numbers game — or, more important, whether they want to play it at all.
If that were to occur, then Anna Nicole Smith would not have died in vain.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention . . . here’s a screenshot of the Google Ads under Rutten’s column:
P.S. Yes, I know. Those with Google ads don’t pick the topics, and the topics play off the content of the post or article to which they are attached. It’s still funny.