Nate Thayer and The Shame of Page View Journalism

Take a second and click on the link below, which details award-winning writer Nate Thayer’s dealings with The Atlantic, which was looking to re-publish a story he had written about basketball diplomacy, and Dennis Rodman’s highly publicized trip to North Korea.

Read it all.

A Day in the Life of a Freelance Journalist—2013.

Two quick thoughts.

1. This exchange is especially rich coming from The Atlantic.

Remember, this is the same Atlantic that won a ton of praise two years ago for publishing Taylor Branch’s opus, “The Shame of College Sports,” which spelled out how the NCAA transformed itself into one of the most lucrative ventures in the sports industry, profiting from unpaid student labour and inventing the term “student-athlete” simply to avoid payroll taxes and compensation claims.

Brilliant work, and a well-timed defense of the self-evident idea that if you work like a professional and that work generates revenue, you’re entitled to some of it.

Unless you’re re-writing stories for The Atlantic, apparently.



If they did, Chief Keef really would finally be rich. If you haven’t been following, he’s the Chicago gang member-turned-teenage rapper who parlayed a massive YouTube following (24.6 million views for this version of this single alone) into a deal with Interscope worth up to $6 million.

The words “up to” are important here, because Keef’s contract contains several clauses tied to record sales — which have been weak. His album debuted at number 29 on Billboard’s hip-hop and R&B chart, selling just 50,000 copies. And reception for his tour was similarly tepid, with soft sales and high insurance prices combining to force Interscope to cancel it entirely.

Meanwhile on YouTube, where access to Chief Keef’s music is free, “business” is still booming.

And what does this have to do with Nate Thayer and the Atlantic?

Everything, because it proves that while page views provide a certain type currency they don’t, by themselves, pay anybody’s bills.

Not Chief Keef’s.

Not The Atlantic’s.

And not those of an adult who, like Thayer, makes a living telling and selling stories.

Imagine if me at the self-checkout aisle in the grocery store, scanning two pounds of chicken breasts, learning they cost $16.99, and telling the attendant I’d rather pay with page views.


“Oh you want money? I’m out of grocery money right now but I got 3,000 page views on my blog in January, and at least 20 times that for stories I wrote at The Star.”

*Arms akimbo*

*Cocked head*


“I don’t think you get it. Page views. That’s exposure!And the exposure is worth money. Right>”


*Calls security*

And I’ll leave the store in handcuffs or of own my free will, but empty-handed either way. Because while “exposure” may lead indirectly to revenue, page views alone won’t buy you a thing.

Not even if they come from The Atlantic.


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