Monday, December 18, 2017

After a strong start, web traffic fizzles

Fall Semester 2017 Web Traffic from Google Analytics.
Traffic on slowed way down in the last half of this semester but still managed to outpace Fall 2016 by 24,000 page views. Last spring semester, though, was three times as busy (678,035 pageviews) as either one.

The numbers did contain one bit of good news, though. The bounce rate (the percentage of visitors who stayed to read just one page) was the best it's been in three semesters: 25 percent. Fall 2016 was 66 percent; Spring 2017 was 36 percent.

Fall 2917 mobile app analytics from GoodBarber.
Traffic on The Orion mobile app was also down from spring -- 15,691 views versus 23,787 last fall --  but downloads crossed the 2,000 threshold as 142 people put it on their phones.

 In all, it was a pretty dismal showing after a strong start.

I think my diagnosis of the problem from earlier in the semester is still valid: A poor social media effort kept the number of visits and views low. That's something that HAS to be addressed next semester.

Silver lining: The Orion home page continues of get strong and consistent traffic: 31,324 visits this semester and 32,266 during Fall 2016. That means visitors are using much as they use a regular newspaper to browse what's new and important on campus. That same behavior shows up for section fronts, too. Here are the pages with the most traffic on the site from Aug. 21 to Dec. 15.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Fall 2017 Orion Awards

The Orion staff got together at Selvester's Cafe on campus Wednesday night to celebrate the end of the semester and recognize exceptional work by their peers.

Here are the award-winners for Fall 2017:
Sports: Noah Enns
Opinon: Kendall George
Arts & Entertainment: Caitlyn Young
Breaking News: Natalie Hanson
Enterprise News: Alex Grant
Copy Editing: Josh Staton
Design: Connor Gehrke
PR: Andrea Gonzalez
Best Editor: Julia Maldonado

Sunshine Award: Christian Solis
Rookie of the Year: Alex Grant
The Orion Award: Justin Couchot

Congratulations everyone!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Ed board for spring semester named

Julia Maldonado
Incoming Editor-in-Chief Kayla Fitzgerald has announced her  Orion editorial board hires for spring semester 2018.

Julia Maldonado, a junior Journalism and Public Relations major, is the new managing editor. She has worked two semesters at the newspaper as an arts and entertainment writer and editor of the arts and entertainment section.

Here are the other editors named this week:

Art Director - Connor Gehrke
Chief Copy Editor- Piper Loring
Assistant Copy Chief - Ruby Larson
Breaking News- Natalie Hanson
Enterprise News - Alex Grant
Arts and Entertainment - Nicole Henson
Opinion- Jackie Morales
Sports - Justin Couchot
Multimedia Editor - Caitlyn Young
Calendar Editor - Kendall George
Web Editor - Amar Rama

Congratulations and best of luck in your new positions!

Friday, December 1, 2017

November traffic takes a serious dip

Chart from Google Analytics
Pageviews on were down significantly in November -- about a quarter of the traffic from the month before and half the pageviews of November 2016.

A dip from October is expected. Students and most faculty aren't on campus for a week. Still, compared to the same month a year before, these numbers are dismal.

As I mentioned last month, social media and especially Facebook are becoming more and more important as a way to attract readers to the website. In November, only 13 items were posted to The Orion's Facebook page. Here's what Google Analytics had to say about how that affected traffic:

That's means just 11.3 percent of site visitors got to the website from a Facebook post. Here's what the social media numbers looked like the same month a year ago. (Click to see a larger image.)

So, while visits (sessions) were down almost 30 percent, social media referrals were down 61 percent. Because the number of visitors who stick around and view more pages after they get to a page on is traditionally pretty high, that spelled double trouble for pageviews.

Twitter isn't a big traffic driver for the website, but numbers there were down, too. Here's a scary chart from Twitter analytics. The down arrows show a comparison to the month before.

The silver lining in these numbers is that the number of Twitter followers is way up. So, the breaking news and sports teams' efforts to live tweet seem to be paying off, but failing to Tweet links to stories drove Twitter-supplied traffic way down. If reporters and editors start tweeting about stories when they're published, those numbers and overall visits will improve.

I don't want to ignore the overall picture, though. There are reasons sessions were down significantly besides the poor social media effort. Overall, the website took a big step back.

One reason I've pointed out in the past couple of weekly critiques is editors circumventing the automatic publishing function of Camayak so stories don't instantly appear on the website when they've been edited. Instead, editors focused on the print edition are putting them in the paper first and only later uploading them to the web (or not uploading them at all). With the majority of the target audience reading The Orion online, that's a losing strategy.

Another reasonable explanation is that content wasn't as compelling. It's important to understand that a lot of visitors still use like a newspaper. They visit the home page and then section pages to browse headlines. That's usually reflected in an amazingly low bounce rate (the percentage of visitors who read a single story and leave). Visitors who don't see anything new (because there are old stories in the home page photo carousel, for example) or see headlines that interest them won't stick around to read more. October's bounce rate was 5.7 percent. November's was a painful 73 percent.

A list of the top 10 stories based on pageviews shows very few garnering strong traffic. An O-Face column about different sexual appetites was the most viewed post with 706 pageviews. Last month, 10 stories attracted more views. Three of the most-viewed stories for November weren't even published last month.

Here are this month's top stories in terms of traffic:
1. College students and sex interests - 706 pageviews
2. Two Chico State students arrested by police go viral (from Aug. 30, 2016) - 545 views
3. Naughty gifts for people on your nice list (O-Face) - 541
4. First-year Chico State student died - 269
5. Chico police identify victim of Cherry Street homicide - 268
6. Mass Effect Andromeda defines wasted potential - 244
7. Crime map reports Chicoween incidents - 240
8. College athletes struggle with finances (Nov. 12, 2013) - 226
9. Shooting at Halloween party near Chico State - 226
10. Guide to gay men's body types (Feb. 7, 2015) - 204

One positive for the month was the number of Orion app downloads. Here are the November numbers from app host GoodBarber.