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.

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