Caitlin Petre


Assistant Professor of Journalism and Media Studies



Caitlin Petre examines the social and material implications of an increasingly data-saturated world, with particular attention to the relationship between digital technologies, expertise, and media industries. Using field research methods, she analyzes how new sources of quantitative data interact with long-established approaches to cultural production and the management of media workers.


New York University
Ph.D., Department of Sociology

New York University
M.A., Department of Sociology

Wesleyan University
B.A., Department of Philosophy


Caitlin Petre studies the social processes behind the digital datasets and algorithms that increasingly govern the contemporary world. Using qualitative research methods such as ethnographic observation and in-depth interviewing, she maps the complex relationships between digital analytics, the social actors who create them, and the established experts who make use of them.

Her current book project, which is under contract with Princeton University Press, explores how audience analytics are reshaping the work of journalism. In today's commercial newsrooms, journalists are increasingly judged based on the number of clicks, likes, shares, and “attention minutes” their articles generate. Drawing on more than a year of ethnographic fieldwork at the New York Times, Gawker Media, and Chartbeat (a leading analytics company), Petre delivers a behind-the-scenes account of these metrics, and explores their implications for democratic discourse, workplace power distributions, and the very notion of editorial judgment.

Research Keywords

Centers, Labs, and Clusters

Funded Projects

2013 Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Tow Center for Digital Journalism: “Metrics: Production and Consumption,” 2013-14. $79,983.

2012 CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism: “Hitting a Moving Target: How Journalism Schools Are Adapting to an Unstable Media Environment” (co-PI: Max Besbris). $5,400.

2012 New York University, Institute for Public Knowledge: “Hitting a Moving Target: How Journalism Schools Are Adapting to an Unstable Media Environment” (co-PI: Max Besbris). $2,084.



Selected Publications

Petre, Caitlin. (2018). "Engineering Consent: How the design and marketing of newsroom analytics tools rationalize journalists' labor." Digital Journalism 6(4): 509-527.

Petre, Caitlin. (2015). “The Traffic Factories: Metrics at Chartbeat, Gawker Media, and The New York Times.” Columbia University, Tow Center for Digital Journalism.

Abend, Gabriel, Caitlin Petre, and Michael Sauder. (2013). “Styles of Causal Thought: An Empirical Investigation.” American Journal of Sociology 199(3): 602-654.

Petre, Caitlin. (2016, September 1). “Gamifying the Workplace.” Public Books.

Besbris, Max and Caitlin Petre. (2013). Hitting a Moving Target: How Journalism Schools Are Adapting to an Unstable Media Job Market. CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

Awards & Recognitions

2015 Best Student Paper Award: International Communication Association, Journalism Studies Division

2015 Top 10 Studies of Digital News and Social Media, Nieman Lab

2014 Honorable Mention, Best Student Paper Award: American Sociological Association, Communication and Information Technology Section