The financial incentives include cash payments of $10 to $50, possibly adding up to hundreds of dollars a week. When readers land on a paywalled story and sign up for a subscription, the reporter will receive a reward after a target is reached.
Verity, News Corp.’s analytics platform, tracks the performance of stories in real time, helping editors, newsrooms and content promoters to determine what makes audiences “pay and stay.”
The data gleaned from Verity led News Crop. to start True Crime Australia, a dedicated vertical that almost quadrupled its subscription sales in a 12-month period.
Sources cited by the Guardian Australia said the incentive plan was aimed at urging reporters to think about “selling” stories to readers, including its website and on social media. The trial may be extended to other staff, if successful.
Also, management will make allowances for reporters who cover stories that tend to get less readership, such as politics and public policy, than sensational items about crime and entertainment.
Paying reporters based on clicks and subscriptions may seem novel, even ethically questionable. But it’s been a common practice among zillions of publishers in the digital era that seek inexpensively produced content with minimal overhead.
Business considerations should never interfere with a reporter's job of gathering facts and writing fair and balanced stories, but readership metrics are also useful. They help to gain insights into the needs of readers that news organizations serve.
News is a business, after all.