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March 21, 2006
What does Internet accountability mean for magazines?
This was a question I faced throughout the reporting on the Internet advertising story: If advertisers are rushing into media that can measure the reach and effectiveness of their ads, what does this mean for us?
First, magazines and other traditional media will find ways, many of them involving the Internet, to measure more. As they do, it will become clear that many magazines have been trading on their gilded reps. They'll face a dramatic correction. Others will have happier surprises. But as the measurements come in, it won't be the entire magazine that benefits or loses. Certain sections, even certain pages or writers, will see their value soar. Others will fall. We will become pixelated like the rest of the digital world, and will likely sell our content or ad space in a far more targeted style.
This spread of metrics, and accountability, will separate the true performers from the pretenders. Winners should make out just fine. The trouble, from a journalist's perspective, is that our performance will be ever more clearly tied to advertising. It will be utterly transparent. And it's hard to imagine that there won't be ever more pressure for us to tweak our performance to optimize the numbers. That's what management consultants call "alignment."
Once an industry enters the realm of numbers, it's awfully hard not to keep count.