Saturday, December 2, 2017

Ed board for spring semester named

Julia Maldonado
Incoming Editor-in-Chief Kayla Fitzgerald has announced her  Orion editorial board hires for spring semester 2018.

Julia Maldonado, a junior Journalism and Public Relations major, is the new managing editor. She has worked two semesters at the newspaper as an arts and entertainment writer and editor of the arts and entertainment section.

Here are the other editors named this week:

Art Director - Connor Gehrke
Chief Copy Editor- Piper Loring
Assistant Copy Chief - Ruby Larson
Breaking News- Natalie Hanson
Enterprise News - Alex Grant
Arts and Entertainment - Nicole Henson
Opinion- Jackie Morales
Sports - Justin Couchot
Multimedia Editor - Caitlyn Young
Calendar Editor - Kendall George
Web Editor - Amar Rama

Congratulations and best of luck in your new positions!

Friday, December 1, 2017

November traffic takes a serious dip

Chart from Google Analytics
Pageviews on were down significantly in November -- about a quarter of the traffic from the month before and half the pageviews of November 2016.

A dip from October is expected. Students and most faculty aren't on campus for a week. Still, compared to the same month a year before, these numbers are dismal.

As I mentioned last month, social media and especially Facebook are becoming more and more important as a way to attract readers to the website. In November, only 13 items were posted to The Orion's Facebook page. Here's what Google Analytics had to say about how that affected traffic:

That's means just 11.3 percent of site visitors got to the website from a Facebook post. Here's what the social media numbers looked like the same month a year ago. (Click to see a larger image.)

So, while visits (sessions) were down almost 30 percent, social media referrals were down 61 percent. Because the number of visitors who stick around and view more pages after they get to a page on is traditionally pretty high, that spelled double trouble for pageviews.

Twitter isn't a big traffic driver for the website, but numbers there were down, too. Here's a scary chart from Twitter analytics. The down arrows show a comparison to the month before.

The silver lining in these numbers is that the number of Twitter followers is way up. So, the breaking news and sports teams' efforts to live tweet seem to be paying off, but failing to Tweet links to stories drove Twitter-supplied traffic way down. If reporters and editors start tweeting about stories when they're published, those numbers and overall visits will improve.

I don't want to ignore the overall picture, though. There are reasons sessions were down significantly besides the poor social media effort. Overall, the website took a big step back.

One reason I've pointed out in the past couple of weekly critiques is editors circumventing the automatic publishing function of Camayak so stories don't instantly appear on the website when they've been edited. Instead, editors focused on the print edition are putting them in the paper first and only later uploading them to the web (or not uploading them at all). With the majority of the target audience reading The Orion online, that's a losing strategy.

Another reasonable explanation is that content wasn't as compelling. It's important to understand that a lot of visitors still use like a newspaper. They visit the home page and then section pages to browse headlines. That's usually reflected in an amazingly low bounce rate (the percentage of visitors who read a single story and leave). Visitors who don't see anything new (because there are old stories in the home page photo carousel, for example) or see headlines that interest them won't stick around to read more. October's bounce rate was 5.7 percent. November's was a painful 73 percent.

A list of the top 10 stories based on pageviews shows very few garnering strong traffic. An O-Face column about different sexual appetites was the most viewed post with 706 pageviews. Last month, 10 stories attracted more views. Three of the most-viewed stories for November weren't even published last month.

Here are this month's top stories in terms of traffic:
1. College students and sex interests - 706 pageviews
2. Two Chico State students arrested by police go viral (from Aug. 30, 2016) - 545 views
3. Naughty gifts for people on your nice list (O-Face) - 541
4. First-year Chico State student died - 269
5. Chico police identify victim of Cherry Street homicide - 268
6. Mass Effect Andromeda defines wasted potential - 244
7. Crime map reports Chicoween incidents - 240
8. College athletes struggle with finances (Nov. 12, 2013) - 226
9. Shooting at Halloween party near Chico State - 226
10. Guide to gay men's body types (Feb. 7, 2015) - 204

One positive for the month was the number of Orion app downloads. Here are the November numbers from app host GoodBarber.

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