NY Daily News celebrates impact of Robin Williams’ death on web traffic
News of Robin Williams’s death has dominated the internet this week as outpourings of grief and remembrance come from every corner of America, from the president to fellow celebrities to anonymous Boston residents who made a heartfelt memorial out of the bench from a “Good Will Hunting” Scene.
Whenever a tragedy takes over the news cycle there’s always an inevitable discomfort surrounding the ethics of reporting on it. Walking the line between relevant, quality reporting and disgusting opportunism can be a balancing act. Let’s not kid ourselves—when someone as beloved as Robin Williams dies it drives a lot of traffic online, and editors scramble to catch a piece of it in effort to meet their monthly traffic goals. It’s gross, but it’s reality. Ideally you temper your zealousness about the traffic by reminding yourself that you’re covering a real human loss, and do your best to cover it in a human way.
Over at New York Daily News, however, it seems those scruples have been thrown out the window. Jim Romanesko posted an internal NYDN editorial memo about gaming SEO strategy to “win” the Robin Williams death that should make you queasy:
As Romanekso points, out the “strategy” is working. Two days after Williams’s death a Google search for “Robin Williams dead” still turns up this NYDN article (updated 45 minutes ago as of this posting) at the top of the Google News pile with NYDN’s coveted keywords front-loaded right where they’re supposed to be:
Death and Taxes has published many articles on Robin Williams over the last two days, along with every other site on the internet. We hope we’ve provided some value in sharing Norm MacDonald’s tribute to Williams, and helped shame the internet trolls senselessly bullying his daughter Zelda. And yes, we’ve seen traffic in the process along with everyone else. But you won’t find any internal memos from us gleefully celebrating an SEO win on Williams’s death. When reporting on tragedies, maintaining our decency should count for something.