Thursday, February 26, 2015

Best cure for lagging traffic? Breaking news

Jenice Tupolo's story yesterday about the alleged theft of almost $10,000 from the campus finance club drew more than 7,500 page views in a single day, helping boost traffic on to one of the best days ever.

The statistics for the day were:
• 8,590 unique visitors
• 52,032 page views(!)
• 467,536 hits

That compares to an average day for the month of 3,304 visits, 21,143 page views and 121,277 hits. Quite a day!

The story also blew up social media, attracting 346 Facebook likes and 21 retweets or favorites.

It also demonstrates the power of breaking news to drive traffic to The Orion's website. Month after month, the site analytics show that covering news on campus is the single best way to get readers to come to It helps that its audience already treats the paper more like a newspaper than a website, viewing on average almost 12 pages in every visit. (Even the best national news sites average fewer than four).

Website traffic also got a boost from the sexual assault commentary package put together by the opinion staff. Its landing page had more than 1,000 views and one of the stories, Joe Rogers' piece about men also being the victims of sexual assault, attracted 2,872 page views. He told me before the staff meeting yesterday that someone had asked him for permission to translate the column into Portugese!

All in all, it was a very good day for the newspaper. Congratulations everyone!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Nice work on the ad for the Orion app

Just wanted to compliment web editor Saiyo Fox on the ad he created for new Orion app. It appears in the banner space on home page.

If you want to download the app or share it with friends, here's the link:

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

5 Ways The Orion Could Get Better

I had a nice discussion with Ashiah Scharaga and Kristen Moran at The Orion managers meeting Monday that included some ideas for improving the newspaper and website. I thought I'd share them,  along with a couple more ideas.

1. Fix proofreading. The system we developed at Normandale Community College really helped to clean up the print edition of the newspaper. It worked this way:
• When a page has been completely laid out in InDesign, an 11-by-17 printout is made of the page and taped to a prominent wall in the newsroom.
• Anyone on the staff can come in, take the page down and pencil-tap it. Jumps are checked, too. When the editing is finished, the page goes back on the wall with corrections indicated in the margins (with proofreaders' marks). The pencil-tappers' initials go on top of the page, indicated it's been read.
• If someone else walking by sees additional problems, more corrections can be made on the wall.
• Editors responsible for making page corrections in InDesign take the page down and insert the fixes. They're also double-checking the suggested changes for correctness. Once they're done, the page goes back on the wall with the word DONE written across the top.
• The art director or her designee takes the DONE page down, makes any adjustments and creates the final page PDF.

2. Run a Photo of the Day. One great way to keep the website fresh and improve campus coverage is to assign a photo of the day. Each person on the photo staff is assigned a day of the week and is responsible for checking the calendar for an event on or off campus that promises to be visually interesting. Alternatively, the photographer can stroll the campus looking for an artistic shot, something to do with the weather or just an unusual scene.  The shot goes on the website's gallery space with an extended cutline. It could be the first image in a slideshow as well.

3. Be a bulldog. My old employer, the Pioneer Press in St. Paul, adopted a branding strategy that played off its reputation as a Pulitzer Prize winner and government watchdog. It adopted the bulldog as a mascot, signifying that it was all about tough news coverage. The Orion needs to get back in the business of tough government coverage, focusing stories on campus and state university governance. That means running beats, reading meeting agendas and minutes, and following up on tips from readers about non-sexy stories that report how the student government, Chico State administration and CSU chancellor's office are doing their jobs.

4. Make more multimedia. Every reporter and writer needs to be thinking about visual elements that will attract readers to their stories. The best first step to a multimedia mindset is to think of the smartphone as a still or video camera that gets deployed whenever a story is being written. Sports and continuous news reporters, especially, need to be thinking visuals, including short video clips, when they're out covering an event. That's what this spring's Videolicious training was all about. Remember that charts, graphs and infographics are also great ways to help tell a story.

5. Do more with data. Chico State, like all campuses, is afloat in paper and reports. Some of them aren't great sources of news, but others have terrific stories to tell if they're analyzed for trends or changes. What kind of financial shape is the SA in after turning the bookstore over to a vendor? Ask for the organization's financial statements for the past three years and put them in a spreadsheet. How have the university's priorities changed over recent years when budgets tightened up? Ask for copies of the budget for those years and see what got cut and what survived intact. Those are stories that won't be in a press release but ones readers will devour and discuss.

Have other ideas? Suggest them in the comments below.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Fun February Facts

According to website and mobile app analytics:

130,944 pages were viewed on the website during the first week of February
523,776 page views projected for the full month of February

45 people followed a link to Michaela Sundholm's Q&A with Pocket Points founders Mitch Gardner and Rob Richardson that appeared in a Penn State newspaper food column.

62 people followed a link to Veronica De La Cruz's column about Pocket Points from an article about the app in the Washington Post.

1,680 people shared Michaela's article on Facebook.

1,218 February page views came from a Facebook post viewed on a mobile phone, about a quarter of all visits to the website in February from an outside source.

Others were:
453 from a traditional Facebook post, including posts to The Orion's Facebook page.
204 from accounts.
117 from the special online section about homelessness posted last year.

347 people have downloaded The Orion mobile phone app.
3,652 pages on the app were viewed during the past month.

Here's where the app can be downloaded:

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Good and bad news about January

T.S. Eliot wrote that April is the cruelest month, but clearly he was never a newspaperman. At commercial newspapers, January is the month whose name must not be spoken because advertisers spend most of their ad budgets in the months before Christmas and almost none the month after.

At, January is one of several cruel months when students are away from campus and traffic at the website dips. This analytics chart of January traffic from BlueHost, the paper's web hosting service, shows the difference between before- and during-semester perfectly:

Spring semester started officially on Jan. 20, and most students were back on campus the day before.

That's bad news, obviously, because traffic for the month (507,834 page views) was about half of's best month last fall. Just over 24,000 unique visitors navigated to the website, viewing 8.29 pages per visit.

The good news is that because about 65 percent of the month's traffic occurred in the last 11 days of the month,  a full month with the same traffic would equal about 930,000 page views, which would make a very good month for the paper.

It's also good news because the uptick when the semester started shows students, the website's most important audience, continue to show strong support. Months like January demonstrate for advertisers the popularity of the site among their most important customers.

One more bright spot that isn't obvious from the numbers:

Even though the pages-per-visit number (8.29) is down from between 11 and 12 ppv, the amount of time visitors spend at is crazily high for a news website. Visitors use the website more like they use a newspaper -- starting with the front page (home page) and browsing for things they want to read -- than a typical website, where most page views are the result of social-media referrals. Just 11,300 pages were viewed via a link from a page outside the website.

In any month, that's good news for The Orion.