Deadspin’s audience engagement numbers contradict ‘stick to sports’ mandate: report

Deadspin’s audience engagement numbers contradict ‘stick to sports’ mandate: report

November 2, 2019

Deadspin’s “stick to sports” edict is contradicted by its own data — and a report on the embarrassing news was posted on the company’s own Twitter account.

The website often wrote about politics and culture as well as sports, but the mandate to avoid controversial topics sparked a newsroom revolt.

Los Angeles Times digital analyst Kim Janssen debunked Deadspin owner G/O Media’s rationale for the directive this week, claiming he analyzed Deadspin’s pageview data — and it shows non-sports stories perform just as well as sports stories on the site, if not better.

The staff exodus was prompted by a leaked memo from G/O Media Editorial Director Paul Maidment instructing journalists to execute “a 100% focus of our resources on sports.” Eight employees, including top editors, quit in response, claiming execs were “curtailing its most well-read coverage.”

A Deadspin tweet announcing Janssen’s findings is one of several odd Saturday postings to the company’s social media feed.

The company defended its decision by pointing out that “in September, unsurprisingly, 24 of the top 25 stories on Deadspin were sports-related while non-sports content accounted for less than 1% of the page views on the site.”

But Janssen — who publicly protested the ouster of Deputy Editor Barry Petchesky for failing to follow the sports order — blew a hole in the reasoning Saturday, explaining the proportion of top sports stories aligns with the volume of sports stories on the site, and therefore really isn’t all that shocking.

“Only 3.5 percent of the stories Deadspin published in September were non-sports stories,” Janssen wrote Saturday. “If a hair less than 1 in 25 of the stories Deadspin published in September were non-sports related, and non-sports stories performed as well as sports stories, it follows that the most likely outcome is that only 1 of the top 25 stories by page views in September would be a non-sports story.”

The math played out exactly that way, Janssen said.

The one non-sports Deadspin story that made the Top 25 was a piece about President Trump by columnist David Roth titled “This Guy Truly Has No Idea What He’s Talking About.”

Janssen also said he found non-sports stories actually performed better than sports stories, attracting 10,000 more page views than the average 80,500 views for sports stories in September.

“Whatever reasons G/O Media has for sticking to sports, or a policy that has led to the loss of its entire editorial staff, the data on Deadspin’s own website do not support them,” Janssen wrote.

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