Saturday, October 28, 2017

You Need More Facebook, Friends

I was reading through the comments on The Orion's Facebook page this morning and noticed a reader (a former copy chief) had pointed out how few posts about stories had appeared on the feed. Taking a closer look, I saw the paper had mostly promoted the print edition of the paper up to that point (Sept. 19, almost a month into the school year).

The posts change after that. They promote specific stories and articles, but news mostly takes a backseat to opinion and arts and entertainment articles. That's better than general posts about the paper but not the most effective way to attract an audience because traffic statistics consistently show that news is the most read content on

It wasn't until this week that the Facebook page had a post every day. Still, the most popular Orion article of the week, an opinion piece about out-of-towners spoiling Halloween, wasn't one of the stories promoted.

That slow start for social media has had consequences for site traffic. Here are the analytics for the first 10 weeks of Spring Semester 2017 and the first 10 weeks of the current semester (click to see a larger version of each).

Last spring, the number of visits to was 72,838. About a third of those visits started in a social media app, and 86 percent of those were from Facebook.

This fall, the number of total visits was just 50,034, 31 percent less than the spring numbers. Social referrals accounted for 10,045 of those, down 57 percent from last spring. Traffic that started on Facebook was 7,706 visits compared to 20,299 last spring. That difference accounts for more than half of the decline in traffic overall.

The PR team has now started using Hootsuite, an online social media management tool, so I hope posting will become more effective and consistent. It's up to reporters and section editors, though, to make sure stories and articles are posted to social media much more often. 

That's just part of the the job now for journalists. 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Yes, social media does make a difference

September traffic for - Google Analytics

The September traffic numbers for delivered good news and bad news.

About 5,000 fewer people found their way to the website during last month than during the same month a year ago, which translated into about 8,000 fewer web sessions. Those numbers made me think the lack of promotional activity on the part of the PR staff and the failure to use social media on the part of reporters and editors had real consequences. So I looked at the analytics. (Click to make the chart larger.)

Last spring, social was a big driver of Orion traffic. This fall, not so much. In fact, social media traffic accounted for seven-eights of the difference in the number of web sessions between the two months.

Fortunately, users who did show up were big consumers of Orion content.

Pageviews for September 2017 were 67,091. Views for September 2016 were about 15,000 fewer. That shows up in the pages per session -- an industry-typical 1.86 pps a year ago, a very good 3.38 pps this year -- and in the bounce rate: just 5 percent last month, which is unbelievably good. That means 95 percent of visitors to stuck around to read at least one more story.

When I saw the bump at the end of this chart for September 2017 web traffic, I thought it might be attributable to the kerfuffle over Gray Boyer's satirical look at drinking, and that was a factor, but it only accounted for about 4 percent of the pageviews. The list of top stories shows readers were interested in a variety of topics.

Taken together with the pages-per-session statistics for the month, the number of visits to the home page and three of the section pages tell me The Orion is attracting an audience of people who visit the website to find out what's happening on campus and in the community. And that's a very good thing. Add a better social media effort and can look forward to a record-setting semester.

Mobile app traffic was consistent with the other numbers for September, except no surge at the end of the month:

Analytics for The Orion mobile app from GoodBarber