Digital Journalism Special Issue

Call for papers: Digital Journalism special issue
Abstracts Due: June 1, 2017

‘Measurable Journalism: Digital Platforms, News Metrics, and the Quantified Audience’

Guest Editor
Matt Carlson, Saint Louis University, USA (


As the news became an industrialized product, it also became a measured one. The ability of news organizations to attract advertisers, justify funding, and compare themselves to their peers have all depended on elaborate audience measurement techniques. But measuring mass communication audiences has always been an approximation, close enough to suit its purposes while leaving audience members as largely an imagined concept, cut off from the moment of news production. Perhaps the best symbol of mass communication is the broadcast antenna, rising above cities to send out its messages indiscriminately.

Digital media platforms upset this dynamic by altering how news organizations monitor, track, and interact with their audiences, ultimately creating the conditions to imagine journalism’s relationships with others in new ways. The aim of this special issue is to bring together research around the topic of “measureable journalism” – that is, the shift to traceable news content that provides real-time quantitative data about audiences while permitting new modes of engagement and accountability. This shift has had a noticeable effect at the level of practice as news organizations reorient their distribution practices around the audience. It promotes a new focus on ‘engagement’ and ‘sharing’ rather than simply consumption. It also creates new streams of data that become objects of struggles between distribution platforms like social media, news providers, and audiences. Most notably, it opens up digital news spaces to the clutter of clickbait and ‘fake news’ fabricated to earn clicks and reap advertising dollars. All of this makes for a confusing news landscape, as actors adapt their practices around emerging ways of understanding what news distribution ought to look like.

As news organizations and audiences adapt to these technological affordances, so too must journalism studies. Measurable journalism complicates issues involving core issues for journalism: journalists’ professional judgment, normative ideas of autonomy, privacy questions about audience surveillance, among others. In short, measurable journalism shifts how we imagine what journalism is and what it ought to do, and such reimagining needs to be made explicit.

This special issue seeks to further investigation of these and other issues. Submissions are invited on the following topics:

  • Clickbait and fake news as part of the news ecosystem
  • News consumption data streams produced by social media platforms
  • Audience metrics and their impact on news decisions
  • The erosion of the editorial-advertising boundary
  • The growth of news personalization and news algorithms
  • The political economy of digital news platforms and audience attention
  • Challenges to professional judgment in the face of measurable journalism
  • The quantification of news impact
  • New conceptual and methodological innovations made necessary by measurable journalism
  • Audience-driven temporal shifts in news distribution
  • Historical analyses of audience measurement

Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words to by June 1, 2017.


Abstracts due: June 1, 2017
Authors notified: June 15, 2017
Full papers due: October 15, 2017