How do investigative outlets keep web traffic flowing?

Chicago Reader
How to reconcile serious journalism with the voracious appetite of a website is “the topic chewing away at my brain the last nine months,” says Voice of San Diego editor Andrew Donohue.

We believe in order to have an engaged internet audience we have to be in front of them every day; the conversation has to come to the site But our mission is to do impactful, meaningful reporting that can take months at a time. It’s a constant balancing act to find a way to do both. There’s no formula whatsoever.

VoSD was having success with quick-hit rolling investigations — the stock-in-trade of TV muckrakers — “but all of a sudden we realized we’re not really having the impact we wanted to be having,” Donohue tells Michael Miner. “So we’ve really taken the foot off the gas over the last month or so and put out a couple of big-project pieces.”

It’s a dilemma for ProPublica, too: “If websites have to be updated all the time to drive traffic, how do you get the time to think about in-depth things?” asks managing editor Stephen Engelberg. “There’s clearly a conflict between new forms of communication.” He feels pressure to do a one-month story in three weeks, “maybe two.” “It’s less the pressure of bean counters demanding results than it is a kind of social pressure, the result of hanging around with a website and its predilection for immediate satisfactions,” writes Miner.

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