If that "Damn Daniel" video going viral didn’t sell you enough, here’s proof that the Internet is the weirdest place to ever exist:
Last week, despite producing exactly zero pieces of new content over spring break, dailynebraskan.com generated the second most clicks of the semester because of, yes, a 2003 Daily Nebraskan story about fox urine.
The story, with the headline "Fox urine spray thwarts tree thefts," details the practice of spraying fox urine on pine and spruce trees in the winter so when thieves take the tree and put it in their house to avoid buying a Christmas tree, the stench of the pee fills the house.
The story quoted UNL landscaping services and, on its face, is generally hilarious. So Reddit.com user "yogocoyote" somehow found this article in the bowels of the DN archives last week and posted the link under the TodayILearned subreddit on the website.
In four hours, the post was upvoted to the front page, for millions of viewers to see, and that’s when the texts came rolling in.
"Chris - check Reddit."
"DN is on Reddit right now?"
"Hey what’s with the DN story on Reddit?"
I checked. I laughed. Then, I looked our web traffic.
In about five hours, 17,000 people had read the story. By the end of the day, that number would read more than 45,000.
As excited as I was, there was a part of me that was actually a little upset with the exposure, which is kind of a mortal sin for an editor to say.
Here’s the thing: I get that the news industry thirsts for clicks. I’d be lying if I said we don’t think about our web traffic often. Heck, we have a sheet of weekly goals hung up in the middle of the newsroom and check our web numbers every day in our daily budget meeting.
But I’ve always told reporters and editors that we shouldn’t chase clicks. I don’t think newspapers need an overtly relatable headline and .gif of a dog slipped into a story to survive. They need good storytelling and decent overall content. Consistently good content will drive clicks. That’s the general song I preach down in the DN.
But this fox urine thing kind of proved me wrong. There are plenty of stories we’ve covered this year that I thought would blow up or garner national attention. Especially the story of this guy who looks like Bernie Sanders.
But fox urine? Are you kidding?
There are two ways of looking at this. This semester, we’re a little behind in traffic compared to last semester, and now, we’re back on track. Which is great. But the other side of that coin is now, every day, we’ll be consistently reminded that no matter what happens, a fluke 2003 story from our archive will overshadow every other story we write.
It feels like we inadvertently cheated the system. And to be completely happy about something like that just kind of smells funny to me.