That’s the question posed in a recent post on mediapost.com. The post argues that, if news organizations skew their story lineups based upon Web analytics that tell them which stories are getting the most online attention, then fluffy content that tends to go viral will supersede hard news stories.

One example cited was the comparison of two Facebook posts. One post, about a woman talking down a gunman and saving elementary school children, received two “likes.” Another post, about the kiwibird being a descendant of T Rex, got twenty-four “likes.” Given these statistics, should an editor give more attention to the kiwibird story, placing it above the fold while the story of substance gets buried?

Another timelier example is the controversy over Miley Cyrus’ raunchy performance at the VMAs. The Web was aflame during and after the event, and the story dominated the news cycle. Web analytics will show that traffic on this story was huge, and advertisers gravitate to those kinds of numbers. In order to survive, news organizations have to satisfy the people who pay the bills.

The real question is where do analytics fit into a news organization’s editorial policy? Should they be serving cotton candy to score big numbers, or should they be providing the stories that enlighten us as to the state of the world and the human condition? Do analytics have a place in these decisions?