One reason people often give for the failure to link (or the “hiding” of links at the bottom of an article, for which some have criticized outlets like The Verge) is that the financial model for digital media — that is, advertising — relies on pageviews, and one of the ways to juice those numbers is to pretend that you broke a story. But whether this inflates reader numbers in the short term, it ultimately depreciates the value of the blog that does it, and that leads to a loss of trust — and trust is far more important than pretending you have a scoop, the half-life of which is now measured in minutes.
Metrics like pageviews and subscriber counts are a cheap and dying metric. As the global user base of the Internet grows, and as more and more millions of people use internet-connected phones we’re finding that 100,000 pageviews today is not the same as 100,000 pageviews was yesterday. The truest metric of a website’s value is found in the amount of trust, attention, and influence it has. But you cannot easily quantify trust, and so most business models are still predominantly based on pageviews.
Marco Arment recently gave a way to help spot a website that is aiming for a business model based on trust versus one based on pageviews:
If you’re truly providing value, you should have the confidence to send your audience away, knowing that they’ll come back to you.
Update: I want to clarify what I mean by pageviews being a cheap and dying metric. Re-reading that statement, it sounds to me like an exaggeration, and that is not what I meant. My apologies for that.
My intention is to try and communicate that the ratio of pageviews to engaged readers is not as high as it once was, and it will continue declining as social networks and active Web users continue to grow.
Perhaps a better analogy is to relate the value of pageviews to economic inflation. As pageviews become more common, their overall value decreases. Just as a dollar today doesn’t buy what it used to, so too a pageview isn’t necessarily worth what it used to be.