Monday, November 10, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Publisher’s Update: Elections/readers survey

Election Day is always something of a high-water mark for your Monitor team. Each cycle we pour resources into coverage of the campaigns. This year, of course, was multiplied by two major factors: the switch to 10-1 and the amount of candidate interest that went with it (for not the last time in these pages, we’ll remind you that 78 would-be Council members took up a campaign.)

Fortunately for us — and, we think, our readers — Jo Clifton’s ability to slide over and focus purely on political coverage meant that we were able to do deeper justice to what happened this season. And though this will continue right through the Dec. 16 runoff elections, I’d like to take a moment and look back at what we’ve seen over the past few weeks and months. This is, of course, not all directly attributable to the election, just as we’ll note that Jo’s extensive political coverage will not be confined to ballot time.

But before I do, a quick public thank you to the Monitor team: Everyone from Editor-in-Chief Liz Pagano — who put in something like a 20-hour work day — to our aforementioned Politics Editor Jo Clifton, to reporters Tyler Whitson, Beth Cortez-Neavel, Gene Davis, Kara Nuzback and Alex Dropkin (who all ran around like crazy getting timely reactions from campaign staffs) did work that I am personally extremely proud to have published.

Now: a few stats. Since Aug. 1, we’ve published 323 stories on city and county issues. That’s about 23 stories a week, an average of just over four a day. That’s just about double the production we’ve historically offered.

According to the ol’ Google Analytics machine, our sessions (the non-unique level of traffic to the site) have steadily increased since we opened the doors on our new Web home. For the week that began Aug. 18, we saw 4,073 sessions. By the week that began Aug. 31, the figure dipped a bit to 3,432. And that’s as low as it got. Indeed, election week saw our largest set of bulk traffic figures, clocking in at 7,923. Though this figure will almost assuredly drop next week, we believe our new baseline is closer to 5,000 sessions than 3,500.

This is about the point where your eyes might be glazing over. Hang with me for just another paragraph because this next number is perhaps more important: The trend from above has also tracked with the number of unique visitors coming to the page. The week of August 18, 2,422 users hit the site. That dipped to 2,102 for the week of August 31 and then started to climb. On election week we had 5541 users. Though not entirely perfect, this number is closer to a tally of individuals–or at least, the number of unique machines–coming to the Monitor‘s site in a given week.

All this also lines up with our growth in subscribed membership. As noted in previous publisher communiques, we started on Aug. 18 with 406 members. That figure is now up to 611. Our goal — one we feel is very achievable — is to grow it to 2,000 over the next two years.

Meanwhile, we and our partners at KUT News, KXAN, Univision and the Austin Chronicle put on 11 forums, one in each district and a citywide mayoral forum. We saw more than 1,000 RSVPs for the Ballot Boxing series. And though not everyone who RSVP’d showed — unfortunately, we did not track this figure — many who didn’t RSVP filled their spots. The series was also live-streamed and archived online by most of the participating outlets.

There’s one last number I’d like to share with you all. That’s our revenue. To date, we’ve taken in just over $145,000 in donations and sponsorships from early adopters (listed here) who took up our cause right from the start. Coupled with our subscriber membership fees that allow readers access to the site, our total revenue since taking over the former In Fact Daily in October 2013 is just over $276,000.

We have accomplished a lot with our starting base of resources and seed funds from initial sponsors. Most of our budget goes to personnel expenses associated with running the site. Over the past 13 months, we’ve purchased this entity from Cox Communications and the Statesman, we’ve redone our site, we’ve doubled coverage and we’ve begun the extensive community engagement that we believe will be a core part of our mission going forward.

Of course, we can’t do any of it without you. Sign up to be a subscribing member, or become a sponsor or one of our charter members before we close access to that list. And help us decide in which direction to head next: Our latest reader survey is now active. We’d like to know what you thought of our elections coverage, where you’d like us to take the site, what’s good, what’s bad, what needs work. One lucky survey respondent (selected at random) will win a pair of tickets courtesy of our kind friends at Ballet Austin to see their always wonderful performance of The Nutcracker. The link to that survey is here. Please do take a minute of your time to share some input with us.

That’s all for now.

Onward!
mk

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