Introduction and methodology
While transformations in the production processes of journalism have been well docu-mented in the academic literature (Anderson, 2008; Domingo et al., 2008; Lowrey andAnderson, 2005; Mitchelstein and Boczkowski, 2009; Singer, 2008) less has beenwritten about the way that advertisers, marketers, and media executives are constructingthe audience for their (increasingly digitized) output. Despite the similar structuralforces at work shaping both the journalism industry and the online media industry moregenerally, and despite the fact that practices of journalism have become increasinglyembedded in the overall logic of the media industries (Bourdieu and Ferguson, 1998;Hallin and Mancini, 2004; Klinenberg, 2005; McManus, 1994), there has been littlescholarship examining the ways that online technologies – particularly those allowingreporters, editors, and newsroom executives to rationalize knowledge of their audience(Napoli, 2010) via the monitoring of reader behavior and traffic on their news websites – are shaping and transforming long-standing journalistic conventions. Research on thesetopics might do more than rehash the older (though recently unsettled) conclusions aboutnewsroom gatekeeping; it might also shed light on the relationships between techno-logical objects and news production processes, as well as add nuance to descriptions of the shifting conditions of newswork in local news ecologies.The research presented in this article is part of a larger ethnographic study analyzingthe shifting technological, cultural, and economic conditions inside both traditional andnon-traditional Philadelphia area newsrooms. This particular slice of the investigationinto shifting forms of 21st-century newswork highlights the way that increasingly ubiq-uitous audience measurement techniques are affecting journalistic culture and editorialdecision-making processes. I pay particular attention to a specific puzzle that emergedover the course of my research: the tension between the common rhetorical invocation of the news audience as a ‘productive and generative’ entity, and the simultaneous, increas-ingly common institutional reduction of the audience to a quantifiable, rationalizable,largely consumptive aggregate. What should we think about this tension between thecommon tendency of reporters and editors to see their audiences as
measurable? If, as Turow argues, ‘the ways media organizers search for and describetheir audiences have important implications for the texts that viewers and readers receive’(2005: 106), how are journalistic cultures and news production process being shaped bya description of an audience that is at once both generative and highly quantified?To compile the ethnographic data used in the research that follows, I undertook a period newsroom-based fieldwork in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with direct observa-tions completed primarily between May and August 2008. I spent time in the newsroomsof the
Philadelphia Daily News
(the city tabloid) and
(a broad-sheet), as well as in what was jokingly known as the ‘not-quite newsroom’ of
,a stand-alone website aggregating content from both papers. All three papers are owned by the same local company, Philadelphia Media Holdings.
All in all, I completed morethan 300 hours of observation at these three newsrooms, and also conducted more than60 semi-structured interviews with journalists, editors, activists, bloggers, and mediaexecutives to gain insight into old and new forms of journalistic work at both traditionaland non-traditional media outlets. In general, I followed a methodological approach