Currencies Cannot Change

Jacob L. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Something I no longer believe is that size will always be the currency of the news media environment. Traditionally, the goal of most publications has been to reach as large an audience as possible. I assumed this was a fixed state of affairs, which resulted in other, smaller assumptions implicit within my research. When I first started studying the news industry, for example, I assumed the advent of sophisticated measures of online audience behavior would finally provide news publishers the answer to the question, “How do we reach as many people as possible?” I was similarly sure that the implications of this development would be profound: journalism would become more democratic, since editors would now know with certainty what subjects were of interest to their readers. On the other hand, journalism would become more focused on cat videos and celebrity gossip as audience analytic data made it plain that these types of content were most likely to attract the largest number of readers. Even as journalism stakeholders have begun talking more about “engagement” metrics, I have tended to assume these would complement, rather than replace, measures of audience size. Recently, however, the news industry has moved further away from the traditional, advertising-supported revenue model that privileges measures of audience size toward audience-supported models that privilege traits like loyalty. Though I remain unsure where these developments will ultimately lead, I am increasingly open-minded to the notion that currencies—like everything else in the news media environment—can change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSocial Media and Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • currencies
  • engagement
  • journalism
  • news audiences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication
  • Computer Science Applications


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