Much heat over the last couple of days about ZDNet's policy (amongst others) of remunerating bloggers based on the page impressions their work generates. Steve Rubel finds the practice "raises an eyebrow"; Nick Carr characteristically points out that it's being going on for months.
Months? Centuries! Certainly since newspaper owners have paid writers to write for their publications. Jeff Jarvis rightly says that "we are all...influenced by our traffic"; Mathew Ingram that "newspapers already promote writers who draw a large readership".
A handful of newspaper columnists draw rock-star salaries. Many more are paid what their editors think they are worth. This assessment involves intuition, personal preference and the inexact science of market research, some combination of which tells their editors that they draw the readers to justify those numbers. I am honestly mystified that people can effectively claim (HuffPo) this sort of unsubstantiated editorial guesswork is ethical but accurate measurement of a writer's draw is not. The claim seems...too far from disinterested to be itself considered wholly ethical. Editors are paid considerable sums to make subjective judgement calls from which writers expect to benefit. Journalists protesting against changing that rather murky relationship to a fair, impartial and transparent measurement of quantifiable appeal strikes me as more than a little suspect.