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Of web hits and Britney Spears
gauging success in online publishing (and education!)

By Lisa Neal / January 2008

TYPE: OPINION
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Hits, Web analytics—some days it seems they're all I hear about. To the best of my knowledge, my position at eLearn Magazine is not dependent on how many people read my articles, or open the Web pages (which is really what analytics track). Other publications, however, are starting to measure the value of individual writers based on hits.

Gawker, "the notorious Manhattan media and gossip blog," recently lost many key writers when it implemented a "new compensation system that pays writers according to how many times people view their blog posts rather than only by how many posts they write."

I was particularly struck by Gawker's move because I had just read a John Dvorak column in PC Magazine that suggested the best way to get hits is to write about Britney Spears. I was amused at first but then thought more about the appeal of celebrities. I certainly find that my attention is caught by celebrity journalism (especially in a doctor's waiting room). For example, I just read how Joe Namath recently received his bachelor's degree from the University of Alabama "42 years after he left school to become a professional football player." He completed his degree in five years through Alabama's External Degree program. At a press conference called to spotlight his accomplishment, Namath said, "Without a degree I had a hole in my being." How refreshing to hear a statement like this about the value of education!

To the best of my knowledge, Britney Spears is not involved in any degree-granting programs, online or otherwise (although I understand she recently took a court-ordered parenting class.) However, the mention of her name in my column may dramatically increase hits, especially if I can think of a way to include Jamie Lynn Spears, too. My mention of Joe Namath may help as well, but not as much as the Spears sisters.

At eLearn Magazine, we are concerned about quality in both the ideas and the writing of the material we publish. Measuring hits is useful because of what it indicates about readers' interests, but other measures may be more meaningful—especially direct reader feedback, because that is usually the clearest sign that one of our articles has made a difference in readers' lives. In fact, the same is true when trying to measure student engagement as regards online or traditional courses. Raw data is no match for readers' (or students') comments.

That said, when Britney Spears enrolls in an online program, you'll read about it here first.



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ADDITIONAL READING

    Lisa Neal
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  2. 5 questions... for Richard E. Mayer
  3. Designing usable, self-paced e-learning courses
  4. Want better courses?
  5. Just "DO IT"
  6. Five questions...
  7. Formative evaluation
  8. Senior service
  9. Blogging to learn and learning to blog
  10. My life as a Wikipedian
  11. Five questions...for Elliott Masie
  12. The stripper and the bogus online degree
  13. Five questions...for Lynn Johnston
  14. Five questions...for Tom Carey
  15. Not all the world's a stage
  16. Five questions...for Karl M. Kapp
  17. Five questions...for Larry Prusack
  18. Five questions...for Seb Schmoller
  19. Do distance and location matter in e-learning?
  20. Why do our K-12 schools remain technology-free?
  21. Music lessons
  22. Learn to apologize for fun and profit
  23. Advertising or education?
  24. Five questions…for Matt DuPlessie
  25. Back to the future
  26. Serious games for serious topics
  27. Five (or six) questions...for Irene McAra-McWilliam
  28. Learner on the Orient Express
  29. In search of simplicity
  30. eLearning and fun
  31. Everything in moderation
  32. The basics of e-learning
  33. Is it live or is it Memorex?
  34. The Value of Voice
  35. Predictions for 2006
  36. Five Questions...for Christopher Dede
  37. Five Questions... for John Seely Brown
  38. Five questions...for Shigeru Miyagawi
  39. "Spot Learning"
  40. Q&A with Saul Carliner
  41. When will e-learning reach a tipping point?
  42. Online learning and fun
  43. Predictions For 2003
  44. Storytelling at a distance
  45. Q&A with Don Norman
  46. Talk to me
  47. How to get students to show up and learn
  48. Predictions for 2002
  49. Q&A
  50. Blended conferences
  51. Learning from e-learning
  52. Q&A with Diana Laurillard
  53. Do it yourself
  54. Degrees by mail
  55. Predictions for 2004