Monday, March 21, 2016

Does Spring Break really matter?

The Orion doesn't publish a physical newspaper during spring break, but do visitors keep using the website?

Google analytics for the week of March 13-20 show they do, but traffic slowed down about 43 percent for the week. Pages per visit were down, too, from 1.77 to 1.65. That could mean that people who came to the site and found few new stories didn't stick around to explore.

Something else interesting happened, though. Visitors to still mostly navigate to the site to see what's there, rather than arrive after seeing some sort of social-media tease to stories. Last week, about 11.8 percent of visitors went directly to home page, while just over 11 percent entered at the story about water levels at Lake Oroville. That's new and probably worth watching to see if it's the start of a trend. 

Here are the week's top stories or pages:

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Want a model for how to write a lede?

At critique a few weeks ago, we took a look at the ledes in the newspaper and tried rewriting some to make them more:
• accurate
• clear
• to the point
• compelling

So as I started reading the San Francisco Chronicle's story this morning about uneven punishment for sexual harassment at UC Berkeley ("Disparity in UC discipline"), I knew I had to post the first few paragraphs of Annette Asimov's story as a model. Hers is a well-reported but complicated, multi-sourced story that could have been tough to summarize and get into.

Here's the top:

UC Berkeley has a clear system in place for investigating employees accused of sexually harassing students or colleagues— but a gaping hole exists when it comes to disciplining the rule-breakers.

Punishment is often arbitrary.

The issue of capricious discipline has emerged as a big problem at the premier public university as cases have mounted.

Four highly paid employees whose violations of the University of California's sexual harassment policy came to light in the last year all received different punishments: an astronomy professor got a warning, the dean of the law school had his pay temporarily reduced and was told to apologize, a vice chancellor had to resign that position but was given another high-profile job two months later, and an assistant coach -- the lowest-paid and the only one without tenure -- was immediately fired.

Look at what Asimov does here:
• The basic story is summed up in the first paragraph: Policy is in Place - BUT - There's a Problem
• Second paragraph: PUNCH, four words, THE PROBLEM (the heart of the story).
• Next, a sentence to put the story in context.
• Then straight to the specifics, the evidence, that the university has not done what it says it does. And what a great twist at the end of this long paragraph to provide the "why" of the story: the powerful don't have to play by the same rules as everyone else.

Asimov has been writing and reporting for a long time, and she has won several awards. If you're looking for a reporter to emulate, she would be a great choice.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Steady (But Disappointing) Web Traffic Last Week

Traffic on seems to have settled in to a predictable 60,000 page views a month, and last week's traffic mirrored that rate. That's disappointing. I would have expected a serious traffic bump on Wednesday when the CSU Board of Trustees announced the appointment of a new president for Chico State.

The website did get about 1,000 more visitors than the previous day, so the audience is showing up when news breaks. With a terrific effort on the part of the news teams to Tweet the announcement, post something quickly on Facebook and get a story up quickly and then follow with two more stories the same morning, I expected much more traffic for the announcement.

A few guesses about why:
• Both the CSU system office and Chico State's public information office had full press releases available almost the moment the decision was announced, and Chico State's was emailed to the campus.
• The Chico E-R had a good, complete story up soon after the announcement (though only minutes ahead of The Orion's story).
• The Orion didn't run its best piece of exclusive content: A recorded interview with the president-elect.
• Students, The Orion's primary audience, isn't that interested in who will be running the university.

The appointment wasn't even the most-viewed story of the week. Here are the top 5:
1. Lake Oroville rises to the occasion - 2,202 page views
2. Students caught in crossfire of CFA strike - 458
3. Board of Trustees announces new Chico State president - 411
4. Opinion: Big boobs, big problems - 303
5. Arts: Fuller House shouldn't get an fuller - 289

Saturday, March 5, 2016

February Traffic a Little Bit Better

Page views for since December 2015. Click for a closer view.

February analytics for shows the website continues to gain back the traffic it lost last semester when a series of problems knocked the site off-line or slowed it down for more than a month.

Of course, it's difficult to compare months to months when students were on campus for the full month of February but only a few weeks in December and a couple of weeks in January. Here are the numbers for all three:

Page views:
February - 65,782
January - 28,435
December - 30,971

Unique Visitors:
February - 29,188
January - 13,438
December - 14,180

A better measure might be averaging the days each month when students were actually on campus.

Page views per day in weeks when classes are in session:
February - 2,268
January - 1,964
December - 1,283

That last set of numbers shows The Orion website is reclaiming its lost audience. Another hopeful sign is the increase in the number of people downloading the mobile app:

Total number of app downloads:
August 10 - 521
December 2 - 1,003
March 5 - 1,251

App page views totaled 9,088 in February.

Here are the five most viewed stories on last month:
Chico State journalism student dies - 7,342 page views
Rape trail no more - 4,418
Chico voted sixth romantic city in America - 2,035
Man shoots himself at Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity - 878
Biggie, Tupac can rest assured - 822