Marisa, I’m totally cognizant of Green’s traffic–which stories are popular and which are not. I’d like to think that I use that data strictly as a force for good–say, changing the positioning of low-traffic stories to get them the traffic they “deserve.” But I admit that I’ve made decisions (never personnel decisions) based on popularity. We scaled back one of my favorite Green features, “Corporate X-Ray,” from weekly to every other week because we could seldom get anyone to read it.
I’m torn. As a capitalist and a devoted fan of pop art, I firmly believe that one’s duty is to, as Ray Davies put it, give the people what they want. And of course I wish people wanted to hear about vegetarianism and scooters all day. But they don’t, so I don’t.
Even Slate, our host, is not immune to this sort of calculus. On the first day of our chat, an acquaintance at a business mag e-mailed me: “If you somehow happen to mention abortion or homosexuality in your exchanges this week, the Slate reader forum will go batshit.” I can’t deny that his advice has been on my mind since. I, of course, am already bus-station gay, Freddie Mercury gay, so I figured that’d naturally work its way into the conversation, but I’ve resisted the impulse so far.