A few days ago, Pierre Omidyar’s the Intercept underwent a much-needed facelift. Aside from a shiny new WordPress template and a nice AJAX-y continuous scroll thing, Editor-in-Chief John Cook has added a feature popularized by his old employer, Gawker: public pageview counts for articles.
The addition of the counts, which show the total views for every article on the site, suggests that the Intercept may soon be judging contributors based on how effectively they attract clicks to their pieces. As Cook notes, the other prominent site to operate in that way is clickbait wonderland, Business Insider.
The pageview counts also gives us some insight into how well Omidyar’s quarter billion dollar journalism project is doing, seven months after launch. (Disclaimer for everything that follows: I’m really, really horrible at maths. Please feel free to note any corrections in the comments.)
A quick tally shows that the site has published just 86 articles in 205 days of existence. According to the Intercept’s own numbers, those articles received a combined total of 2,588,718 pageviews (a couple of articles are showing zero counts, which is almost certainly a glitch). If those pageviews were evenly spread across the site’s existence, that would be an average of 12,628 pageviews per day, or 384,101 page views per month — roughly the same as Grocerybudget101.com, according to Quantcast.
The overall pageviews are interesting, but are likely affected by the site’s sporadic publishing schedule. They also only include views of actual articles, not traffic to the site’s homepage.
More interesting is the individual counts. Despite $ 250m in funding ($ 97 per pageview!) and huge launch publicity, backed by Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks, the Intercept’s own numbers tell us that only seven articles have attracted more than 100,000 pageviews. (To put that in perspective, this dopey post I wrote about a billboard, back in July, brought in close to 700k pageviews for Pando.)
Surely journalists like Glenn Greenwald who are used to reaching a much, much larger readership at traditional publications like the Guardian (for which he helped win a Pulitzer) must be wondering why leaks which make headlines worldwide are still failing to attract a large audience for the Intercept.
It must also be dawning on Omidyar that becoming a media titan is slightly more complicated than hiring big name reporters and a former Gawker editor and throwing eBay money at them.
Here’s the full listing of pageviews for all Intercept posts, ranked by the site’s own published numbers: