Presenter: Angele Christin, Ph.D. Candidate, Sociology, Princeton University
Time: Wednesday, November 6, 1:10-2:30pm
Location: Room 1631, Hunter West, Hunter College, 695 Park Ave., New York, NY 10065
Sociological analyses of commensuration – the transformation of different qualities into a common metric – often emphasize its role in processes of homogenization and isomorphism between organizations. Yet numbers may in fact take different meanings depending on their contexts. I explore this question with the case of online journalism and compare the reception of internet metrics in an American and a French web newsroom. How do journalists react to the constant flow of quantitative information they receive about the online ‘success’ of their articles?
Drawing on ethnographic material gathered at TheNotebook.com in New York and LaPlace.com in Paris, I document processes of convergence between the two organizations, both at the editorial level and regarding the use of internet metrics through a software program called Chartbeat. But I also find differences in the use and meaning assigned to traffic numbers. At TheNotebook, editors make important editorial decisions based on Chartbeat, whereas editors at LaPlace have conflicted feelings about it. Yet, paradoxically, staff journalists at TheNotebook profess indifference regarding internet metrics, whereas staffers at LaPlace are obsessed with traffic numbers. I argue that these different organizational cultures typify the distinct trajectories and features of the journalistic field in the U.S. and France.