What clicks actually mean: Exploring digital news user practices

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This article problematizes the relationship between clicks and audience interests. Clicking patterns are often seen as evidence that news users are mostly interested in junk news, leading to concerns about the state of journalism and the implications for society. Asking and observing how 56 users actually browse news and what clicking and not clicking mean to them, we identified 30 distinct considerations for (not) clicking and classified them into three categories: cognitive, affective and pragmatic. The results suggest, first, that interest is too crude a term to account for the variety of people’s considerations for (not) clicking. Second, even if one aims for roughly estimating people’s news interests, clicks are a flawed instrument because a lack of clicking does not measure people’s lack of interest in news. Third, taking users’ browsing patterns seriously could help bridge the gap between what people need as citizens and what they actually consume. Finally, we argue that all metrics should be critically assessed from a user perspective rather than taken at face value.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)668-683
Number of pages16
Issue number5
Early online date22 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2018


  • Clicks
  • journalism
  • news interest
  • news use
  • qualitative audience research
  • web metrics


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