The National Union of Journalists is claiming cross-party backing for its campaign against so-called ‘click targets’ for journalists.
Publisher Trinity Mirror wants to introduce the traffic targets as part of its ‘Connected Newsroom’ strategy, due to be rolled out across its regional centres over the next four months.
It will mean increased use of audience data to ensure editorial resources are focused on the most popular content.
The NUJ has raised concerns about the move and claims all four parties in the Welsh Assembly, pictured, have now pledged their support for its campaign.
Andrew RT Davies, Conservative Welsh Assembly Member, questioned the emphasis on the ‘popularity’ of stories rather than their public interest value.
“I don’t doubt that a list of celebrity fashion faux-pas would attract more clicks than a thoughtful analysis of the Welsh government’s proposals for council reorganisation – but which is more important?” he said.
“I would strongly urge Trinity Mirror to think again before pressing ahead with these plans, though they are almost certainly not the only media organisation introducing such targets.”
Labour member Ann Jones sad: “The Western Mail and other Trinity Mirror publications play a crucial role in both the scrutiny process and engaging Welsh residents with the decision making process.
“We are concerned that proposals to assess content and journalists based on the number of ‘clicks,’ will inevitably incentivise journalists to steer away from more complicated stories as well as changing the way they cover stories, potentially solely focusing on more ‘sensational’ elements.
Simon Thomas of Plaid Cymru added: “The diktat coming out of the Canary Wharf headquarters of Trinity Mirror is aimed at boosting the website clicks at Wales Online, yet it is once again cutting the workforce at Wales’s largest newspaper centre.
“Journalists must be given appropriate time to pursue and write major stories, without fear that it will be held against them because of the ‘click’ mentality.”
And the Liberal Democrats’ Peter Black said: “I’m incredibly concerned that any move towards clickbait journalism will mean less coverage for our Welsh political institutions, which can only be bad for democracy.”
“A story about someone spotting a Kim Kardashian look-alike in Gorseinon could well get more clicks than an article about underinvestment in Wrexham’s mental health services, but without more stories like the latter there will be fewer opportunities to drive forward improvements to public services.”
Martin Shipton, Media Wales journalist and chair of the NUJ’s Trinity Mirror group chapel, said: “We are grateful for the support offered to our campaign by all four parties represented in the National Assembly.
“It reflects the widespread concern that individual ‘click’ targets for journalists will lead to a race to the bottom in terms of quality.
“A sustainable future for media groups like Trinity Mirror will be determined by the level of their commitment to high quality journalism, not by a crude measure of website clicks from no matter where and no matter whom.”
Trinity Mirror has not so far responded to requests for further comment. It has previously denied that the proposals would result in more so-called “clickbait.”
Its digital publishing director has published a blog post setting out the case for the proposed changes in detail.