Monday, October 24, 2016

Web traffic in the doldrums

The Orion website had 8,706 page views
last week. The column show views per story
Traffic at has settled into a trough the past few weeks after some encouraging spikes last month. A look at the most popular stories from last week gives a clue about the cause.

Hard news, and especially breaking news, has always been the biggest driver of readers to The Orion website. These numbers appear to show less interest in news content, but I think a more accurate reading is that the paper is not reporting newsworthy stories.

The other apparent trend in these analytics is that the opinion section has become more popular. A look at the historical trends, though, shows opinion traffic is about the same as it's always been except for the big jump last month when the column about abolishing Greek life captured lots of views.

I thought a look at web traffic since last year would be interesting, too, so I captured this snapshot of page views since last December, the best data available through Google Analytics. It shows overall better daily traffic last spring, the predictable dip in the summertime (which shows students are the sites core readership) and a few spikes this fall. Overall, though, readership is down. This would be a good topic for this week's ed board and section meetings.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Some ideas for designing square-tab pages from AARP

When newspaper publishers decided to save money by reducing page widths on broadsheet pages and page heights on tabloid pages, they created some awful canvases for page designers. When The Orion switched to a square tab last year, it took some time for the paper's design staff to recognize they needed to treat the full page the way they had treated each individual story when they were designing a broadsheet. In most cases, though, they were still seeing a single page rather than a spread, at least from a design standpoint.

So, I've been looking around for examples of successful designs in this 11-inch by 11-inch square. I like what the AARP Bulletin has been doing with its paper because Design Director Todd Albertson and his team have figured out how to minimize the shortcoming of the square.

Some examples from this month's issue:

This single page is pretty typical for the Bulletin. Notice the page label at the top separated by lots of white space from a simple bold, all-caps headline and a dek. A sidebar gets extra graphic treatment 

Longer pieces get a facing-pages treatment with a large headline in the top left corner of the left page and an explanatory dek. Notice the use of subheds to break up type and an infographic that ads editorial color on the right page. No jump lines necessary with this layout, by the way.

Standing features in magazines are called departments. The Bulletin identifies them for readers with a heavy blue horizontal line. Notice how the art elements are used on this page and the pages above. Again on this page, the headline is position in the top left corner with plenty of air surrounding it and not stretched across the top of the page, which is the default for The Orion page design. I think this approach helps the page look less cramped and squat. 

Another two-page spread, this one with art at the bottom of the first page and at the top of the second page. Notice, too, the use of the sidebar on the right page. There's a lot of text here, but it doesn't seem overwhelming because of the placement of the art and the dominance of the left-page photo. Notice, too, that all these stories have headlines and deks -- headlines to draw the reader into the story, deks to provide additional information about the story to help readers decide if they want to read further.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Greek column, letter boost September traffic

Orion statistics from
The number of visits to crept back to more typical monthly levels in September with a big boost from Whitney Urmann's column advocating the abolition of the Greek system and a letter to the editor written in response to it.

The column generated 40 onsite comments,  6,725 page views (almost 13 percent of total website views for the month) and a letter from a sorority member that had 726 (now 744) page views.

The other top stories for traffic were:
2. Two Chico State students arrested by police, video goes viral - 1,587 page views
3. Chico State students warned of possible gunman - 1.356
4. The Greek letter to the editor - 726
5. Viral arrest video students will face trial - 635

Most visitors to the website in September arrived via smartphone. Quillengage wrote:
Sessions from mobile, desktop, and tablet users were all up this month. In keeping with the month prior, mobile continued to produce more traffic than any other device. With a 78% increase in your site's mobile sessions, mobile traffic reached 15,663 sessions. Your site had 11,140 sessions (up 57% from last month) from desktop users. Tablet traffic was up 52% with 1,221 sessions this month.
Those smartphone numbers are in addition to visitors who viewed The Orion via the paper's mobile app. Here's the report for September from Goodbarber, which provides the hosting (click the graphic for a larger view):