50,000 people in 30 days? Seriously?

Published 12:26 am Saturday, July 27, 2013

It takes only a small lightening storm – and an ensuing Internet outage – to make us realize just how much we depend upon being connected to the world through the web.

It happened in Andalusia on Tuesday, the heaviest production day, print-wise, for The Star-News. In addition to our newspaper, there are five others that have to get through our plant and on the streets. The pages of those publications are delivered to us electronically, so a late-afternoon electrical storm makes us panic. Literally.

We are fortunate to have friendly neighbors next door at Andy Cable. Ivan Bishop personally walked over to make sure we were up and running as soon as possible. That kind of customer service is a luxury our counterparts in cities don’t have or understand. We appreciate Ivan and his staff.

Later in the week, I was in a conversation about how much people read online, so I thought I’d look closely at our site. In the month of June, our web site, andalusiastarnews.com, had 498,200 page views.

This we know because google provide an analytics service that tells us how many people visit, how many pages they see, and what drives those readers to our site. In the past 30 days – June 25 to July 25 – even more people have used our site. Google tracked 534,885 page views in 131,087 visits. There have been 50,148 unique visitors to our site. Approximately 70 percent of those are returning visitors, while 30 percent visited for the first time.

And those numbers can lead the mind wandering. Who are those 15,044 “new” visitors that google detected. Did they read a page here because they were researching genealogy? Were they reading the obituary or birth announcement of someone they knew? Are they coming here for the World Series next month and looking for community information?

Most of those visitors landed on our news pages, but we get tremendous traffic on the classified pages, the obituary pages, and the arrest reports.

Not surprisingly, the story that got the most “hits” in the past 30 days had this headline: “439 pot plants found, 2 charged.” Second most read was “”Grandmother plans to sue schools.”

At larger news organizations, people are paid to monitor which stories are getting traction and “move” those on the page so that even more people read them. Technically, I suppose those editors could be called traffic cops, because managing web traffic is exactly what they’re doing.

We’re not nearly that scientific here. Still, I’m amazed that more 50,000 visitors came to our site in the space of 30 days. That’s a lot of traffic for a small-town newspaper.