Encouraging more courage from the media through clicks.

It has become clear in the past week especially that the republican administration sees a free and curious and — if necessary — critical press as an enemy to its purpose. If you’re on FB, you probably rely pretty heavily on some of the administration’s vilified sources for reporting and analysis. And if your current preferred sources aren’t yet on the naughty list, you may soon find out that they’re like the weather in New England. Just wait 5 minutes and that may all change.

What good is our clicking and liking and sharing and angry-facing against the bully pulpit? Sure it’s gratifying to do some small part, but does it really make a difference?

If you understand media companies and the way they evaluate their digital businesses, then yes, the way you engage socially with media content can have a big impact on the stories they write, and the courage they retain. Like most businesses, publishers respond well to positive reinforcement. If they do something that allows them to make more money, they will do more of that thing.

Digital media’s positive reinforcement is simple: page views on the site, that translate into ad impressions and revenue. When we see a publisher taking a stand or digging into a true piece of investigative journalism or showing solidarity with other publishers, we can reward them in a way that will get their attention and encourage more of the same.

The actions that drive revenue are the ones they most look to replicate.

Here’s how:

1. A Like and $4 isn’t worth a cup of coffee. Simply engaging with a post on social doesn’t directly generate any revenue for a publisher. It does make the post more visible, but visibility alone is also not a revenue generating activity. We can do better.

2. If you see a link to a story that represents the kind of journalism you’d like to see more of, click on it. Go to the website, let the ads load, read the story. If you continue to see the link over the next couple days, click on it again and see more ads. I admit, it’s juvenile and marginally unethical, but at least you’re not… No, I wasn’t going to say the president. I was going to say a bot. At least you’re not a bot. You actually might click through and buy that lamp from Overstock.com that’s been following you around the web for 8 days. This just might be the time. And it would please the publisher greatly.

3. You actually don’t need to click on the ads on publishers’ sites. In some cases the site is paid by clicks but in most cases it is enough for the ads to load. If you feel the urge to click, click on another story on the site and let the cycle begin anew.

4. The other side of the same coin is to avoid clicking on articles to see how much they outrage you. Your angry read is worth as much ad revenue as someone else’s smug satisfied perusal, so don’t fall into that trap. And it is a trap, plainly.

5. #4 is not the same thing as staying away from publishers with ideology you don’t agree with. Some reporters swim against the current of their publication, and their publishers should know when that brings in a new audience of people who do not have their ad blockers enabled.

6. If you really like a publisher, download its apps because that too is a metric they watch. But don’t use them exclusively for content. Apps are harder to monetize through advertising than their site.