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Publisher’s Note: Two Years

Thursday, October 1, 2015 by Michael Kanin

It’s been entirely too long since I wrote you all. I’ll offer (meekly, perhaps) that we’ve been rather busy here at Monitor/Capital of Texas Media Foundation HQ – and so, on top of missing more than a few opportunities to report on the advancement of things, we also nearly missed this opportunity to mark the anniversary of CoTMF’s purchase of what would become the Austin Monitor from the Austin American-Statesman.

We’ll use it as an excuse to restart what I hope will be a more regular conversation with our readership.

This is indeed the second anniversary of the day that CoTMF officially closed the deal to buy what was then In Fact Daily from our friends at the Austin-American Statesman. Since then, we’ve managed to redo our website; bump the volume, breadth and level of our coverage; and think more about what comes next for us as an organization. We’ve seen our readership levels climb, with signs that more new subscribing members are on the way.

We have hosted 18 public forums and a CitySummit, are gearing up for another public forum (on the State of Austin Music, set for Oct. 6 – we hope you’ll join us) and are planning the CitySummit sequel on Dec. 4 (details on that event to come). We’ve launched a radio show with our partners at KOOP. We offer regular Council updates via our partners at KXAN and KUT. We’ve now entirely paid off our purchase of IFD.

And we’re planning for big stuff in 2016.

We’ve also had a few trouble spots. I’ll start with specifics there. As many of you have noticed, our login system was rather … uncooperative over the past few weeks. Our web hosts and the vendors who designed it now tell us that all lingering issues have been resolved (including those experienced by Chrome users). We should be able to get the kinks out of the passwordless login and have no plans to revert to a password system (or completely drop our paymeter) in the near future. Please know: If you have to log in every time you want to read something, something is not quite working. If you are still having trouble, please contact me at michael dot kanin at cotmf dot org.

Now, back to the good stuff: The addition of Kara Perez as our development officer has made a significant impact on our ability to organize events and large-scale fundraising efforts. In 2015, we saw 99 new donors offer their generosity to our organization (Kara reminds me that *you* could be number 100.) We’ve seen you give via Amplify Austin (a first for us), our first annual fundraiser, sponsorships and individual volition. And it’s been deeply gratifying. After all, without donors – and, of course, without readers – we can’t bring about a better dialogue.

Some stats: It’s now been a year since we remade our website. In that time, says our Google Analytics report, we’ve seen our session figures go from 8,100 in August 2014 to just over 45,500 in August 2015. Our single biggest session month has been July 2015, where we logged a fraction over 64,000 sessions. It looks like September 2015 will produce 56,000-plus sessions.

User data, as interpreted by Google, mirrors this trend. In August 2014 we saw just under 4,200 users visit the site. That figure plateaued at roughly 12,000 through the end of January 2015. Then it began to climb. By July 2015, we saw 46,131 users come through (again, according to Google).

I’ll note here that, as of September 2015, the number of new Monitor users remains (as interpreted by Google) roughly equal to the number of users already familiar with the site. This finding offers some indication that folks are still discovering what it is that we do. We’ll take that as a positive, and we’ll continue to reach out both via community work – exciting stuff that I can’t quite tell you about yet – and through social media.

I can, however, tell you about another project that we are very excited about: On Oct. 12 we, along with our partners at KLRU and KUT will unveil a project we’re calling “The Eastern Frontier.” In it, you’ll find our reporters traveling just northeast of Austin to the town of Manor. The project will give us the chance to tell the story of a place that is nearby – and greatly impacted by Austin’s economy – yet still far from the city in a number of ways. This effort marks the first comprehensive, stand-alone production we’ve tried – a milestone that you helped us achieve.

Looking further ahead, I can tell you that we’ll keep trucking in 2016. You can expect us to continue to cover Austin City Council, various city boards and commissions, Travis County Commissioners Court, the Lower Colorado River Authority and all of our (if not your) other favorite local entities. You may even see us finally get out to Williamson and Hays counties. We’ll also continue to come up with new projects and ideas.

On that note, I’ll remind you that we’re still working on the Basics. This is the spot where we’ll offer a set of basic information that should help you interact with local government in a more efficient manner. This portion of the site will also host a couple of exciting data projects. I originally anticipated that this would be ready in May or June. Not so much, it turns out. We’re still working on it, and I hope we can get this up in the very near future.

If there’s something (somewhere) you’d like us to get to, go here. That’s a link to our current readers’ survey. Your input means a lot to me, and I’d very much like to hear from you.

Otherwise, I’ll leave you with what’s been a mantra around these parts:

Onward!
mk

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