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Explainer: Publisher’s Note

Monday, February 23, 2015 by Michael Kanin

Each week, the Explainer offers a closer look at stories we have been following. This week, we’re looking inward.

When we kicked things off here in Monitorland, we added the “beta” tag because we knew that we were still in early days. We also knew that the project would be ever-evolving, and so before I get into the meat of today’s update, I’ll begin with a bit on this distinction: To us (and not just us), beta marks a stage of development where our efforts are put to live testing. We’re still there, and will be there for at least another few months as we churn out a handful of additional (what we’d like to think are) exciting features. Once it’s all out there for you to play with and we’ve collected your feedback, we’ll doink the “beta” tag.

That, of course, does not mean we’ll be done evolving. We’ll continue to keep up with — and, hopefully, ahead of — thoughts in news delivery. The removal of the “beta” tag will simply mean that we’ve reached a point where we feel our full initial concept is unveiled.

To that end: a note on a couple of changes coming your way starting this week. The first is — excuse the pun — a categorical shift. That is, our editor and “narrow escaper” of a career in librarydom, Liz Pagano, has worked up a new categorization system for the site. It’s headlined by eight general categories. Each of these general categories has a set of subcategories assigned to it. You can view these by hovering over each of the main categories.

A picture here might do better than a description:

Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 1.53.37 PM

We hope this will add a little more clarity to site navigation.

We’ve also made a slight change to the email blasts we offer. Early on, we nixed an update from then-assignments editor Mark Richardson that was designed to give you some level of insight into what we’d be covering for the next day. That update, so smartly called “Afternoon Update,” was abandoned amid questions of utility. We failed, however, to remove it from our email menu. That’s been done.

In bigger news, beginning today, we’re changing the scope of our “What We Woke Up To …” email. This email, delivered to many of you at noon, formerly included two local headlines from the Monitor, another local headline from another media outlet, and one or two state-focused items. This email will now be more of a complete news roundup, featuring headlines from multiple other news services. We feel this, a concise rundown of what’s happening, will better serve your needs. Please do tell us if you feel differently.

As is our tradition, I’ll close with some stats. We continue to see slow growth in terms of sessions. From the first week of January through the second week of February, we saw between roughly 5,300 and 6,400 weekly visits. This was, predictably, echoed in our user — remember, Google’s best guess at unique visitors — numbers. Those came in at between about 3,400 and 4,400.

Last week — punctuated by some excellent reporting on Council heartburn over a bicycle infrastructure grant, news from the proposed Decker Lake golf facility, and a big scoop about Mayor Adler’s plans to fund staff positions via a (c) 3 — proved to be a banner one for traffic. We saw our session numbers climb to a hair over 9,100, a record for us that eclipsed even election-week coverage. Again, this figure was echoed in the user count. That came in at 6,275.

Our subscription numbers also continue to climb. When I last checked in here, we were at roughly 650 subscribing members. That number is now up to over 700. Going off hasty math done in this space back in December, that means we’ve got about 300 more of you to scoop up in what we believe to be our low-hanging membership basket.

One last note: The Capital of Texas Media Foundation, the Monitor‘s parent, received its official 501(c) 3 status from the IRS a couple of weeks back. Among other exciting developments, this allows us to participate — on our own — in this year’s Amplify Austin campaign. We hope you’ll consider helping us continue to keep the Austin region informed via our Amplify campaign (click the above to get involved).

And that provides me with a perfect transition to my traditional close:



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