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Publisher’s Note: Whispers, more sponsorships, and Watson and Adler on transportation

Monday, March 28, 2016 by Michael Kanin

A couple of small changes, more Web sponsorships, and some event announcements to get to here:

First: We’re moving Whispers. Not far, just behind a new button that you’ll find on the front page of the site. We’ve struggled a bit to figure out the section’s place in our now-not-so-new home. Those who remember the In Fact days will probably recall a different section. We feel this geographic change will allow a bit more flexibility in the section – while also allowing readers to scroll through a more complete set of content than was immediately available before.

This move will also allow a bit more space along the sidebar for online sponsorships. The folks behind the development side of the Austin Monitor‘s parent nonprofit, the Capital of Texas Media Foundation, feel like a new focus on this side of things in the coming months could produce some positive growth for the organization. Along those lines, if you are interested in showing your support for the Monitor through an online sponsorship, please get ahold of me here.

I’ll use this space to note that, while sponsorship revenue is key to our survival, we remain hesitant to test the waters of sponsored content for the Monitor. Many – most? – of our colleagues around the news publication world have settled on this concept as a way to quickly boost revenue in an ecosystem starved for it. But we worry about the impact it would have on our credibility.

That said, we’ve experimented with a version of what the Voice of San Diego calls “Partner Voices,” a space for sponsored content from area nonprofits. To make this work – read: to keep it off the Monitor‘s page – we figured we’d post it on the CoTMF website. Thus far, we’ve found little interest, but we’re happy to continue to entertain the idea. If you’re interested – or if you have any thoughts about our approach here (really anything) – I remain your person to email.

Before I move along to the usual dose of stats, a quick note about an exciting new partnership and two upcoming events:

Sean Moran, who, in addition to his many professional responsibilities, teaches over at Austin Community College, reached out – after a suggestion from Monitor pal Julie Montgomery – and asked us to help with his Geographic Information Systems Service Learning course. Naturally, we were pretty stoked about the idea. Look for what promise to be some exciting data projects from his students in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, our first 2016 BBB (Beers, Brains and Betterment) is coming up fast. For that, I’ll be interviewing Austin Mayor Steve Adler and state Sen. Kirk Watson about the multiple transportation issues facing the region. It will take place Tuesday, April 5, and is located, as always, at the North Door on Brushy Street. Doors at 6:30. RSVP and more info are here. Many thanks to the Downtown Austin Alliance for making the conversation possible.

We’ve also cooked up a new kind of conversation, one we call Game Night. We’ll be asking teams to come up with practical solutions as a way to try to get beyond the same discussions we as a city continue to get caught in. The first, on May 16, will cover development and take place at the Google Fiber space. Expect more details later this week.

Now. Stats!

Our peak traffic month continues to be September 2015, during which we saw 103,549 Google Analytics page views. Traffic declined in a slow parabola to a December low of 67,873 – a number that was still roughly 15,000 more than the previous December. It began to rise again through January, and by February of this year we were back up to 94,527. Holiday drop-off? Lack of interest in a City Council that was dragging its way through the end of last year? Maybe. More likely is the natural attrition of readers who get pulled in through a major issue and become less interested in the grit of daily city coverage. The good news for us is that we appear to be hanging on to at least some of these folks.

That notion is echoed in our subscribership, which is now over 1,200. As a reminder, when we started this enterprise, we had 406 subscribing members. Uptake has slowed a bit, but we still believe that there are plenty of folks willing to pay for high-quality, regular Council coverage.

None of this, of course, would be possible without the support of our readers, our donors and our sponsors. We’ve done some pretty great stuff, I think – and we’ll continue to do more as the organization grows. Typically, I’d end there. But I’ve realized that, in the handful of these that I’ve done over our roughly three years, I have not really given you all a chance to get involved. So. Here it is: Get involved. Subscribe, donate, come to an event. Get to know your city; like, really get to know your city.

The more support we have, the more we can do. And the more we can do, we believe, the more positive impact we can have on the city we love.


This post has been updated to include the correct spelling of Mayor Adler’s name in the headline.

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