Thursday, November 16, 2017

Kayla Fitzgerald will lead The Orion next semester

Kayla Fitzgerald, a senior Journalism & PR major from Livermore, has been named The Orion editor-in-chief for Spring 2018.

Kayla is this semester's managing editor and has been on the staff for four semesters. She has also worked as a news reporter, a sports reporter and breaking news editor.

Congratulations, Kayla!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Traffic tops 84,000 pageviews in October

Traffic numbers from QuillEngage are based on Google analytics
Even without a blockbuster news story, traffic for made substantial gains in October, indicating more and more people are using The Orion's website and mobile app to get their campus news.

Here are the numbers from Google Analytics:
Pageviews: 84,177
Sessions: 26,284
Pages per session: 3.2
Unique visitors: 21,559
Bounce rate (the percentage of visitors who left the website after reading only one story): 5.75%

All are up quite a bit from September and are higher than October 2016.

Here's what The Orion app traffic looked like for this October. Downloads now exceed 2,000.

Click to see a larger version.

A couple of surprises were buried in the Google Analytics data for

Chicoween coverage only attracted a few hundred readers for most stories. That could be because readers were following live reports on Twitter. The exception was an opinion piece asking out-of-towners to stay away from Chico on Halloween. That was the most read story of the month with 6,889 pageviews, about 8 percent of all traffic.

The other surprise was in referrals. A link from the San Francisco Chronicle's online sites to the story about a Chico State frat vandalizing a national forest campground sent more than 1,000 readers to

The top stories for traffic in October were:
1. Out-of-towners are not welcome - 6,990 pageviews
2. Four steps to being drunk in class - 3,540
3. Fraternity being investigated for trashing website - 2,548
4. Wildfires force evacuations in Butte County - 1,864
5. First-year Chico State student died - 1,323
6. Immediate evacuations due to Honey Run fire - 1,285
7. Female DJ Rossi desires to inspire - 984
8. Drunk sex: Let's get it up, literally - 850
9. Chico State students take initiative to help wildfire victims - 849
10. Homicide is reported near the Chico State neighborhood - 807
11. Pi Kappa Alpha pleads guilty to vandalism charges - 652

It's interesting that overall traffic was up and stronger than last October despite a weak social media effort. That, and the bounce rate and average number of stories each visitor reads, confirms my hypothesis that readers are gradually replacing their weekly print use of The Orion with more frequent visits to

My suspicion is also confirmed by the overall traffic numbers from Google Analytics since website traffic started being tracked in December 2015. Here's that that looks like:

Click to see a larger version.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

You Need More Facebook, Friends

I was reading through the comments on The Orion's Facebook page this morning and noticed a reader (a former copy chief) had pointed out how few posts about stories had appeared on the feed. Taking a closer look, I saw the paper had mostly promoted the print edition of the paper up to that point (Sept. 19, almost a month into the school year).

The posts change after that. They promote specific stories and articles, but news mostly takes a backseat to opinion and arts and entertainment articles. That's better than general posts about the paper but not the most effective way to attract an audience because traffic statistics consistently show that news is the most read content on

It wasn't until this week that the Facebook page had a post every day. Still, the most popular Orion article of the week, an opinion piece about out-of-towners spoiling Halloween, wasn't one of the stories promoted.

That slow start for social media has had consequences for site traffic. Here are the analytics for the first 10 weeks of Spring Semester 2017 and the first 10 weeks of the current semester (click to see a larger version of each).

Last spring, the number of visits to was 72,838. About a third of those visits started in a social media app, and 86 percent of those were from Facebook.

This fall, the number of total visits was just 50,034, 31 percent less than the spring numbers. Social referrals accounted for 10,045 of those, down 57 percent from last spring. Traffic that started on Facebook was 7,706 visits compared to 20,299 last spring. That difference accounts for more than half of the decline in traffic overall.

The PR team has now started using Hootsuite, an online social media management tool, so I hope posting will become more effective and consistent. It's up to reporters and section editors, though, to make sure stories and articles are posted to social media much more often. 

That's just part of the the job now for journalists. 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Yes, social media does make a difference

September traffic for - Google Analytics

The September traffic numbers for delivered good news and bad news.

About 5,000 fewer people found their way to the website during last month than during the same month a year ago, which translated into about 8,000 fewer web sessions. Those numbers made me think the lack of promotional activity on the part of the PR staff and the failure to use social media on the part of reporters and editors had real consequences. So I looked at the analytics. (Click to make the chart larger.)

Last spring, social was a big driver of Orion traffic. This fall, not so much. In fact, social media traffic accounted for seven-eights of the difference in the number of web sessions between the two months.

Fortunately, users who did show up were big consumers of Orion content.

Pageviews for September 2017 were 67,091. Views for September 2016 were about 15,000 fewer. That shows up in the pages per session -- an industry-typical 1.86 pps a year ago, a very good 3.38 pps this year -- and in the bounce rate: just 5 percent last month, which is unbelievably good. That means 95 percent of visitors to stuck around to read at least one more story.

When I saw the bump at the end of this chart for September 2017 web traffic, I thought it might be attributable to the kerfuffle over Gray Boyer's satirical look at drinking, and that was a factor, but it only accounted for about 4 percent of the pageviews. The list of top stories shows readers were interested in a variety of topics.

Taken together with the pages-per-session statistics for the month, the number of visits to the home page and three of the section pages tell me The Orion is attracting an audience of people who visit the website to find out what's happening on campus and in the community. And that's a very good thing. Add a better social media effort and can look forward to a record-setting semester.

Mobile app traffic was consistent with the other numbers for September, except no surge at the end of the month:

Analytics for The Orion mobile app from GoodBarber

Saturday, September 23, 2017

A fast start for the website

Traffic for the first month of the semester on

Google Analytics had good news and bad news -- but mostly good news --  for traffic on for the first month of school.

Bad news first: Just 16,607 people found their way to The Orion's website from the end of August to this weekend. That's about 6,800 fewer than the same month last year (a 29 percent decline),  evidence that the absence of a hot column or breaking news story -- last fall, a police misconduct story attracted 1,600 page views and a column about abolishing Greek life 6,725 views -- was the reason for the dip.

Good news item #1: The number of pages viewed was actually way up from a year ago, 72,122 versus 53,170, a 35 percent increase. That's still way below pageview averages near 100,000 the website recorded last spring, but it does indicate a strong user base. The top four pages for visits during the month were the home page and category pages, which is further evidence the campus community goes to the website for news even without a big story in play.

Good news item #2: The numbers also show visitors viewed an average of 3.43 pages each visit, which is sky high for news websites and double the rate for the same month a year ago. That's reflected in the bounce rate (the percentage of visitors who leave a website after visiting a single page) of 5.81 percent. That number is also crazy good. Last fall's bounce rate was 78 percent, much more typical of most news sites. Readers are sticking around because they know there's more good content on the site.

Good news item #3: The Orion mobile app downloads have topped 2,000, a little over 11 percent of campus enrollment. That may not sound like much, but at the end of September last year the number was 1,500. Clearly, the PR team's efforts last year paid off.

No single story dominated the pageview results for the first month of the semester. Here are the top 10 stories, based on traffic:
Aza and Tinashe under the same spotlight - 998 pageviews
Chico State hosts eclipse viewing party - 956
Chico Cream grand opening - 896
The silent government dismantling Chico - 763
Sociologist by day, musician by night - 681
Tekken-7 reigns as king of fighters - 674
Man claims attempted phone theft - 561
Police blotter Sept. 11 - 560
Go vegan - 549
Fraternity a no show in federal court - 541

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Six things you can do to transform The Orion into a 21st Century newspaper

Last week's Orion critique started with this list of suggestions for improving the paper.

Shoot more video: You all carry a video camera around in your pocket. Learn to use it. I saw two videos posted this past week, and one was five seconds long. The Orion will be better and you’ll have a stronger portfolio if you decide to make moving pictures a regular part of your coverage.

Take more photos: You all carry a camera around in your pocket. Learn to use it. I saw seven photos by current Orion staffers in the paper and online this week and four of them were for a single person-on-the-street feature. The paper will never win another award with such a poor photographic effort.

Use alternative storytelling devices: There are so many ways to tell stories with multimedia these days, and The Orion is doing almost none of them. The arts section is doing a good job of linking to other people’s online content, but the paper is creating almost nothing of its own. Think about interactive timelines, infographics, capturing audio from interviews and posting it online, stream live video of events, create a podcast, dream up something brand new.

Saturate social media: With the exception of the Arts & Entertainment section, which is doing the best job in the history of the section, The Orion is practically nonexistent on Facebook and Twitter. Posting on those two social media platforms directly affects web traffic to and enhances your own social media presence.

Cover more things as they happen: Felix and Luke were the sole bright spot this week for breaking news, getting to the DACA protest and capturing photos, video and words from the scene. It’s one of the few times last week I got any sense of urgency, the one attribute great journalists share. They’re competitive. They want to be first with a story. The paper’s Google analytics show news coverage is by far the most popular content on the paper’s website, but it doesn’t seem to be a priority for this semester’s staff. Sports, especially, is an area that should be investing much more time in live coverage. Writing opinions about national sports is fun, easy and ego-gratifying. It’s also very 20th century.

Engage with the audience: Use Twitter to tell readers that you’re going to cover a news, arts or sports event; promote your stories on Facebook and respond to their comments and questions; use social media to ask your audience to help you research stories. The audience wants to be part of the journalism experience, so figure out ways to help them do that.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Can you tell when school started?

Analytics for the past month from GoodBarber, The Orion's mobile app host

The best evidence that The Orion is the news medium of choice for Chico State students is in the analytics from its web and mobile app hosting companies. The chart above shows traffic on the app reviving the same time fall semester started.

Note the number of downloads. The app will probably reach the 2,000-user mark by the end of September.