The quest to tweak search results to lead readers to news stories

Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post provides a behind-the-scenes look at how newspapers attempt to position themselves in search engines in order to draw more readers. While these are news organizations with often serious intentions, they have to compete with other popular web topics. Here is what Kurtz suggests this looks like:

If you appease the Google gods with the right keywords, you are blessed with more readers. So carried to a hypothetical extreme, an ideal headline would be, “Sarah Palin rips non-Muslim Obama over mosque while Lady Gaga remains silent.”…

On a recent Wednesday morning, some Post editors were frustrated that the primary election results weren’t garnering many hits — despite the fact that John McCain had just won his party’s nomination and Lisa Murkowski was on the verge of losing hers. What was hot, the traffic directors said, was Elin Nordegren telling People that her life had been “hell” since her husband’s sex scandal, a photo of an alligator in the Chicago River, and a video posted on Gawker of a British woman throwing a feral cat into a dumpster…

Zaleski says such trend research is used mainly to tweak headlines and search terms. But, she adds, “what we’re realizing is that we can’t live in a vacuum, where we decide what people want to read.”

The quest for online eyeballs is one that all online sites are competing in and those who are interested in providing or discussing more serious topics do not seem to be winning the day.

h/t Instapundit

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