Doing “Well” or Doing “Good”: What Audience Analytics Reveal About Journalism’s Competing Goals

Jacob L. Nelson, Edson C. Tandoc

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Journalism research frequently takes the form of ethnographic case studies. Because ethnographic data collection tends to be limited to months or even weeks, these studies are often unable to uncover how journalism changes over time. Our study addresses this gap by drawing on ethnographic data collected from a large, metropolitan newspaper in 2013 and again in 2016. In doing so, it answers the question: How has a newspaper’s relationship with online audience analytics changed? Our findings show that audience metrics continue to play an important role in the news production process. However, the adoption of online metrics has been less universal and deliberate than the paper’s staff originally assumed it would be. Drawing on market information regime and normalization literature, we conclude that ambivalence about these analytics has made explicit the idea that journalists face two goals they perceive as mutually exclusive: the pursuit of a mass audience and the aspiration to provide mission-driven reporting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1960-1976
Number of pages17
JournalJournalism Studies
Issue number13
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported in part by Northwestern University and the Tow Center for Digital Journalism. The authors wish to thank the organizers of the ICA 2018 Audience Analytics Pre-conference for the opportunity to present and receive feedback on an earlier draft of this article.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, © 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Audience metrics
  • ethnography
  • journalism
  • news audiences
  • news production


Dive into the research topics of 'Doing “Well” or Doing “Good”: What Audience Analytics Reveal About Journalism’s Competing Goals'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this