"Um, maybe the fact that only 6 percent of your readers read the cover story meant that most of your cover stories sucked - except the ones by the reporters you fired. It was their stories that provided the gravitas."
Would that it were so, my life would be easier.
Unfortunately, as the gatekeeper I'm privy to the horrible truths about we the people, so I'm well aware that the stories that go to the moon are ones where people get killed on camera or ones in which a woman marries her look-alike sex doll. You can play along at home, as many of the Best Publications in the World have most read/most e-mailed boxes, which rarely correspond to what would populate the most-important-and-moving boxes which are as yet nonexistent. I'm also well aware of when and what people read of my own work, which I obviously have strong opinions about; my asinine but clever Cedric Benson Drunkenness Metric got lots of traffic; the thoughtful but depressing Notes on the Death of Paul Tilley, not so much. Perhaps the latter was stale and pedantic? The definitions keep shifting.
Some content that me or my colleagues produce gets ignored because it isn't very interesting; some of it gets ignored because people aren't very interesting; some of it gets ignored for reasons I'll never understand. Now that the Internet has opened up a world of numbers, we know a lot more about who reads what when. Some of it's heartening, a lot of it isn't, a lot of it doesn't make any sense at all.
In an ideal world, the anonymous former proprietor of billmon.org (during its time the best political blog on the Web; now archived at whiskeybar.org), would be at the NYT instead of a clever sociopath like Maureen Dowd. I like Ana Marie Cox, but I don't know why she's at Time and not some of her brilliant colleagues from Suck (still my favorite thing anyone has done on the Internet, ever).
There's no doubt that losing John Conroy, whose work I refer to frequently, cost the Reader "gravitas," or whatever you want to call it (how about just world-class reportage?) but I spend too much time on the Web to think that quality directly correlates to popularity. The Nick Denton empire is one of the most powerful on the whole Internets, but Lifehacker is the only part of it that I could defend my time spent reading it before God if He asked me to.
Mike Royko bails, then passes on; he's replaced by Richard Roeper. Sic transit gloria. Maybe it's just the fog of war, but on the sparklines the terrain looks pretty complicated.