Never ran one that I really liked that turned out to be a flop, but the opposite has happened--where one I thought was just okay turned out to be a hit.
As far as how to judge whether it's a hit, it's a combination of responses and hits, but usually never just one or the other.
For instance, an article may generate a lot of hits just because of a provocative title, or because of the track record of the author. Number of responses is usually a good barometer, but sometimes a good article doesn't elicit a lot of conroversy or a lot of questions.
Either the conclusions drawn by the author were ones that everyone agreed on, or it was written so well that it answered any questions a reader might have had.
Consequently, it doesn't get a lot of emails or responses.
I guess I just know an article's successful when it happens.
Have I ever said, "Damn, I shouldn't have run that one"? Sometimes, and it's usually one that proposes an outlandish dietary principle. I might have run it to get some controversy and discussion going, but sometimes, a lot of readers take it to heart and start practicing the guidelines espoused in the article and Chris and I have to spend the next two years "mopping up."
Case in point: The Warrior Diet.
Do Tim and I worry about legal stuff? Sometimes I'll read something that's worrisome and ask Tim, "Think we'll get sued?" Then we'll both start laughing and run it anyhow.
What do I look for in a good article? Content, content, content. An ideal article gets the reader to try a new routine, a new movement, a new diet, or a new supplement. A good article reaches some sort of conclusion. It's easy to write what I call "book reports," where the author simply writes about a topic without coming to a conclusion.
Those kinds of articles are a dime a dozen. Those kinds of writers are a dime a dozen.
If a reader takes the time to read through an article, he expects "paydirt" at the end. In other words, he's got to take home some useful information. As such, I want our writers to make deductive leaps based on the evidence. It's their job to interpret data and give the reader a solid conclusion.
That conclusion may eventually turn out to be wrong, but it's better than lacking the courage or imagination to make and defend a stance.
And then there are the "feature" articles where the reader expects to be entertained. Those don't have to teach the reader anything at all, but they should provide a diversion.
I've always wanted the site to be a blend of hard core, unique information, blended with entertainment, i.e. "infotainment."
Yeah, I like your response to #4 TC. Good for you (although I'm sure some of the lawsuits can be painful)! That's one of the key reasons I'm at this site--the ability to leap out and do something that could piss people off by dragging them out of their comfort zones. Not to mention, it's just plain funny when people get up tight.
I think to get sued (for liabel/slander) you have to say something about a person or company, or, I suppose product; this has to be stated as a fact and is beliveable enough to damage the person's reputation, and this has to be proven that the fact is false by the person. The person also has to be known enogh so that it damages their reputaion, and the fact has to be said enough to spread it around to a number of people.
If you state it as an opinion tho, I don't think u can sue for liabel.
Nomancer, you're interpreting the world as it's SUPPOSED to be.
In truth, you can sue anyone for anything. You wouldn't belive some of the things we've been sued for.
We made fun of someone's advertising and got sued. We pointed out that the "before" model in an ad for a weight loss product was pregnant and not overweight from eating, and that her "after" picture merely showed her post-pregnancy self. (I knew the model.)
I'd love to tell you some more horror tales, but some of them are still dragging through the courts.
Sometimes, a company attempts to punish a smaller company by suing them for something petty. While the big company has deep pockets and it can keep a lawsuit going for years, the smaller company practicallly goes out of business trying to pay legal bills, even though the small company was in the right.
I don't think that a lot of people realize how much time, resources/money and often "emotional capital" one has to use just to DEFEND a lawsuit, (whether it is frivolous or not).
I've often wished that in some way (I'm no legal scholar, so what I wish for may be somewhat nieve)...but I've often wished that we had some kind of "legal filter" that would cut down on all the "garbage" suits. (Isn't it most, if not all, of the European countries that require you to pay if you lose a suit?)
Anyway, back to the topic!
One other question:
A lot of the articles on the site have amazing graphs, charts, illustrations, etc. Are these provided by the graphics guys, or does "The Nation" just have a computer/graphics sauvy group of contributors?