When I was in J-school I was told that what was up-and-coming were newspaper websites (formerly Web sites, but AP loves change).
So, I focused my energy on learning web. That’s how I got started on this blog … it was for an online media class.
When I was applying for jobs right out of college the first place that offered me a job had absolutely no online presence and that ultimately made my decision not to go with the paper.
At the weekly newspaper, the website was just beginning to go up. The publisher’s goal was to make the paper weekly but online be a daily. It didn’t exactly work, but I learned how to update the site, do videos and make photo galleries.
Then contrast it to the daily I’m working at now. The paper averages 5 million page views a month.
A couple months ago when the oil spill was fresh and disasters were happening all over, we hit over 8 million – in one month. That’s huge for a paper with less than 100,000 in circulation and for a paper who’s previous editor said we would never get over 5 million.
Lately, however, we’ve been dragging.
So here is what I’ve learned through experience and from those around me on what works and what doesn’t.
Driving web page views:
In breaking news: Put up a photo gallery of a.) wacky signs, b.) girls on motorcycles or c.) Weird bumper stickers.
In top story: Put up a quirky story with a good front photo and a photo gallery. Videos don’t hurt, either.
Local: Death, destruction, child molesters in jail and throw in a couple of feel-good or business stories so the site isn’t too bleak.
Police blotters: Headlines are the key to this. Make it short, simple and witty. Adding a mug shot and putting (MUG) in the headline also helps
How to slow the website:
We learned just this morning, if you have a photo gallery with too many photos not of individuals people won’t click on the photo and you’ll lose page views. Also, adding too many photos to one gallery overwhelms the reader and they lose interest. Not something you want.
Put up nothing but crimes. People like crimes, trust me – I know. But if it’s the entire site they grow tired of it and start looking for other things.
People also find such words as “tourist development,” “legislation” and any name that appears on the site too often boring. Mixing up the headlines helps with that problem.
We don’t like to sensationalize, but making the story sound more exciting than it is really does increase page views. Having a photo does the same thing and that is true for print papers as well.
Since starting here, my instincts towards the web have gotten much better. I know which celebrities people will find interesting, which stories will be clickable and how to set the website up for the optimal amount of readership.
I hope these tips help someone else who, like me not too long ago, knows little about the world-wide web except that they need to know something.
Good luck all you J-school kids, in the end it’s totally worth it!