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

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Six things you can do to transform The Orion into a 21st Century newspaper

Last week's Orion critique started with this list of suggestions for improving the paper.

Shoot more video: You all carry a video camera around in your pocket. Learn to use it. I saw two videos posted this past week, and one was five seconds long. The Orion will be better and you’ll have a stronger portfolio if you decide to make moving pictures a regular part of your coverage.

Take more photos: You all carry a camera around in your pocket. Learn to use it. I saw seven photos by current Orion staffers in the paper and online this week and four of them were for a single person-on-the-street feature. The paper will never win another award with such a poor photographic effort.

Use alternative storytelling devices: There are so many ways to tell stories with multimedia these days, and The Orion is doing almost none of them. The arts section is doing a good job of linking to other people’s online content, but the paper is creating almost nothing of its own. Think about interactive timelines, infographics, capturing audio from interviews and posting it online, stream live video of events, create a podcast, dream up something brand new.

Saturate social media: With the exception of the Arts & Entertainment section, which is doing the best job in the history of the section, The Orion is practically nonexistent on Facebook and Twitter. Posting on those two social media platforms directly affects web traffic to and enhances your own social media presence.

Cover more things as they happen: Felix and Luke were the sole bright spot this week for breaking news, getting to the DACA protest and capturing photos, video and words from the scene. It’s one of the few times last week I got any sense of urgency, the one attribute great journalists share. They’re competitive. They want to be first with a story. The paper’s Google analytics show news coverage is by far the most popular content on the paper’s website, but it doesn’t seem to be a priority for this semester’s staff. Sports, especially, is an area that should be investing much more time in live coverage. Writing opinions about national sports is fun, easy and ego-gratifying. It’s also very 20th century.

Engage with the audience: Use Twitter to tell readers that you’re going to cover a news, arts or sports event; promote your stories on Facebook and respond to their comments and questions; use social media to ask your audience to help you research stories. The audience wants to be part of the journalism experience, so figure out ways to help them do that.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Can you tell when school started?

Analytics for the past month from GoodBarber, The Orion's mobile app host

The best evidence that The Orion is the news medium of choice for Chico State students is in the analytics from its web and mobile app hosting companies. The chart above shows traffic on the app reviving the same time fall semester started.

Note the number of downloads. The app will probably reach the 2,000-user mark by the end of September.