editor on the verge

Online musings from the newsroom and beyond . . . by Yoni Greenbaum

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Keep them coming back for more – UPDATED

January 11th, 2008 · 5 Comments

Primaries and caucuses can be a traffic boon for newspaper websites. The days leading up to Election Day, the day of and even the days immediately thereafter can bring thousands and thousands of new unique visitors and possibly tens of thousands additional page views (and many, many, many more for larger papers).

While most newsrooms are great when it comes to planning content to draw people to their sites, how many really focus on content that will keep them coming back? The question seems to be how do you transition an occasional visitor to your site to a regular visitor? Think about what keep just 2 or 3 percent of those new visitors would mean to your stats. So, what are you going to do to keep them?

Online staffs in New Hampshire, Iowa and Michigan, what did you do? What worked and what didn’t? What advice would you have for newspapers in states that haven’t gone on this fun ride yet?

6:08 p.m. (EST) Thank you Shawn (see comments) for pointing out that Michigan hasn’t happened yet. It is Wyoming that help their Republican primary on Jan. 5. So Wyoming newspapers, what tips do you have?

Tags: Analytics · Audience Development · Best Practices · Branding · Industry · Innovation · Online

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 shawn smith // Jan 11, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    Michigan hasn’t happened yet, but we’re quickly approaching it. At MLive.com, (Michigan Live – Booth Newspapers) we’re coordinating all of our papers to post elections coverage to their blogs and syndicating that content through RSS to a single elections page that aggregates all the best local and national coverage of the elections (www.mlive.com/elections/).

    One of the biggest items of notes for us is to make sure people understand that they can’t write in candidates. We’re heavily promoting that story and also running a cool poll on our elections page that seems to get people interacting with the page.

    Key advice: Aggregation! Help your readers understand you have the good stuff (including links to other news orgs and their stories). That will keep users coming back!

  • 2 Yoni Greenbaum // Jan 11, 2008 at 8:55 pm

    @Shawn – Thanks for the correction, clearly I was getting ahead of the cycle. I agree aggregation is great especially for newspapers that have sprawling sites. Why make the readers hunt? I know if I can’t typically find what I’m looking for on a site, I move on. Good luck! Let me know how it goes.

  • 3 Damon Kiesow // Jan 11, 2008 at 9:36 pm

    Great question and I wish I had a profound answer!


    To start – and this is probably typical – from any ‘big’ event we see a residual bounce, maybe 1% of an increased baseline for uniques and PV following an event surge. It is too early to say – but we hope to see that following this week’s primary as well.

    Looking at our uniques on primary day – only about 20% came from NH – compared to 50% on average. (I am not counting MA traffic – though that is local for us as well.) About 40% of those NH visitors were ‘new’ monthly uniques, compared to 20% on an average day. Breaking that all down – we probably ended up with 8,000 new or at least not-recent local visitors on Tuesday.

    We launched a redesign for NHPrimary last Spring, and NashuaTelegraph.com this Fall, so strategy #1 is that having a ton of new eyeballs on the site this week works simply on a marketing level. New and Improved, New and Improved!

    More practically NHPrimary (which aggregated all of our political coverage) was tightly integrated with our core site features – multimedia, blogs, comments, breaking news alerts, event calendars etc. We had live blogging from around the region, 75 news updates on primary day, result charts, issue charts, candidate videos, voter resource pages, and hundreds of reader comments. So, strategy #2 – the content was useful and engaging enough to lead to future repeat visits.

    It does sound rather obvious as a readership strategy: ‘build it and they will come back’ so let’s hope content is still king.

    And if all else fails – we had several stories about Ron Paul that no matter what are guaranteed to draw a disproportionate amount of traffic and commentary from his supporters. 🙂



  • 4 Jason Kristufek // Jan 14, 2008 at 8:23 am

    Obviously, our sites saw a tremendous two to three day traffic spike from the Iowa Caucuses, and not surprisingly we found that 79 percent of the traffic was “new” visitors to our sites, both http://www.GazetteOnline.com and http://www.iowacaucus.com. That provides a great opportunity doesn’t it?

    I agree, the traffic is typical of a big event that draws a lot of attention. And the question is a good one. How do you retain readers who may find you on a search engine and may read only one or two things. I don’t know that anyone has found a good way to do that. Remember we are operating in a world where people want access to information when, where and how they want it. I think the “brand” that is providing it only matters in terms of trustworthiness. I have read a lot lately that content is no longer king. It is the trustworthiness of the information that is king.

    With all that said, I feel we offered online readers a better “experience” than any of our competitors in the state. We had interaction, engagement, blog entries, comments, the Iowa Caucus Twitter experiment feed, the Facebook group feed – all of that increased usage to our sites tremendously and helped enrich the experience.

    Jason Kristufek
    Cedar Rapids, IA

  • 5 Jeff Raper // Jan 14, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    Yoni asks a great question here, I wish I had the answer.

    We were somewhat surprised by the amount of national and international traffic we received, which I largely credited to favorable Google positioning when people searched for New Hampshire Primary. Our site thenewhampshireprimary.com basically quadrupled our daily unique visitors on Primary day and gave us a nice traffic boost for about a week.

    I?d say the key to our success was using a separate domain name that was well indexed by Google. We basically used http://www.thenewhampshireprimary.com as a landing page where we aggregated as much primary content as we could (Blogs, Local News, Wire Stories, Candidate Profiles, a voters guide, multimedia coverage, links into our forums, and local primary results broken out by towns in our market).

    As much Search Engine optimization as possible will prove to be very beneficial to attracting new visitors.

    We also tried to give the sight some personality and unique appeal by focusing on our local political writer?s blog and further building his brand as the voice off the New Hampshire Primary.

    I also feel a key to our success was frequent updates but keeping our local focus with events here on the Seacoast of New Hampshire highlighted.

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