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