Discussion of curmudgeons and people struggling with changing newsroom cultures drove my blog to record traffic in April.
My previous record, from December 2011, was just shy of 25,000 page views, but last month I topped 31,000. In previous months when my traffic has been strong, I’ve tried to note the patterns or lessons I could learn from the success. The big drivers of this record were four posts relating to change in newsrooms:
- Dear newsroom curmudgeon set traffic records for a single post on my blog: the highest single-day total of page views and the most views in a week or a month. At nearly 8,500 views it is on the verge of becoming the most-read post I’ve ever written, less than a hundred views behind my Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection, published three years ago. The C3 blueprint achieved its traffic by staying popular over time, getting 2,500 views in 2010 after more than 4,500 in 2009. And that was a proposal for a new business model for community news (though no one has actually implemented the model, it received a fair amount of attention). While the curmudgeon proposal was not as broadly useful, I believe it succeeded for at least two reasons: First, it connected with people — curmudgeons and reformers who are tired of curmudgeons — on an emotional level. Second, it offered advice; I wasn’t just scolding curmudgeons; I tried to understand some reasons for their resistance to change and I ended up offering advice.
- I followed up the letter to curmudgeons with a piece on lessons I learned from the response to that, getting more than 2,000 views on that piece. That’s one-third of the month’s record traffic on two posts. The lesson there is easy: Continue the conversation when you write something provocative. (I practiced that in the comments, too; the curmudgeon got 97 comments, including pingbacks, and many of those were my responses to people’s questions and comments. I also joined conversations about the curmudgeons on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.)
- I continued the conversation further with a third post, Don’t let your bosses’ decisions control your career success or happiness, responding to a comment in the lessons learned post. This one got 951 views.
- Then a comment on that post prompted a fourth post, offering advice to a struggling editor who hoped to recapture the joy of journalism. That one topped 1,000 views and stirred another good discussion in the comments and social media. These last two posts underscored the continue-the-conversation lesson, but also showed that some comments raise a point that is worth a new post, where you can give the issue greater attention. Also, I think people value advice offered sincerely. Even if they don’t agree, they try to weigh in with their own advice. This four-part series of blog posts, all one long conversation about dealing with change in journalism, generated more than 12,000 views last month. Yesterday’s gatekeeper post started out with nearly 700 views its first day, not continuing the curmudgeon discussion, but also addressing change in journalism.
A few other observations about the month’s traffic:
- Paywalls still generate some interest here. I criticized Gannett’s obfuscation in hiding paywall announcements in flowery self-praise. That got more than 900 views.
- I remain amazed at the search traffic still generated by a piece I wrote last year noting how the 5 W’s apply to the business of news. People search for the 5 W’s more than you can imagine, and somehow that piece is always on the first page of results. It had its best month ever in April, a year after its initial publication, with more than 900 views. A second 5 W’s piece I wrote in November, the 5 W’s (and How) of writing for the web, is starting to get some of that traffic, too. After 414 November views, it tailed off to 74 in December, then was in the high 100s the next three months. But it picked up the pace to 321 in April. I presume journalism students are the ones Googling the 5 W’s, but someone searches for that term a lot.
- Workshop tips and slides generate decent traffic. My workshops last week on sports engagement and digital storytelling each got more than 400 views.
- Writing about the work of my Digital First Media colleagues also gets some attention. My piece on the York Daily Record’s “Finding Their Way Out” project got nearly 500 views.
- Archives continue to drive significant traffic. Beyond the 5 W’s pieces, posts on new revenue streams for news organizations, tightening your copy and the Digital First workflow combined for more than 1,000 views last month (and several others had more than 100 views each.
I don’t expect to top that April record for a while, but I hope to learn (or underscore) some lessons from my May traffic, whatever it is.