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Publisher’s Note: Story Map and individual story purchase

Monday, June 6, 2016 by Michael Kanin

When we started this project, we envisioned a regular beat of these Publisher’s Notes — maybe once every two months or so. This is my second in about three weeks. So, if you’d like a rough “exciting times” metric for your Austin Monitor, this would be it.

The times, they are exciting.

For starters, if you scroll down to the bottom of our front page, you’ll see the first version of our Story Map. This project — made possible through a grant from the Institute for Nonprofit News as the administrator of the INNovation Fund, on behalf of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Democracy Fund — is our attempt to drive home the idea that news is happening all around you.

There are a couple of ways to interact with it: You can scroll around the map and get a general view of what’s going on. You can also click on the magnifying glass at the top left and enter any address you’d like (though we’d bet that an address in, say, Central China will return far fewer results than one in Central Austin — despite some initial code confusion on our part that may have actually placed a few stories there).

Currently, the Story Map content goes back to Jan. 1, 2014. We’ll continue to add to this over time.

We’re also pretty thrilled that we can now offer our non-All Access subscribing members, via the fine folks at NewsBank, the ability to purchase an article a la carte. So, if you are a Keep Me Informed subscribing member and you’ve run out of stories this month, but you’d like to see just one more? We can now do that. If you are a Civic Enthusiast subscribing member and you’d like to grab something from the archives? You can now do that. NewsBank takes a cut for this service, but some of your dollars do return to us. More dollars, of course, mean more news.

And that means more stuff like this: In the near future, we’re going to bring back the In Fact brand as a new column from Jo Clifton for our All Access readers. Clifton will offer news bits, analysis and other items that only she — with her deep knowledge of all things City Hall — can bring to you. It’ll be called In Fact Weekly, like it was way back in the ’90s, and we think it will be an excellent addition to our stable of coverage.

Since I skipped it last time, I’ll also take a quick minute to look at our numbers. In keeping with today’s theme, these are also exciting: May 2016 represented our highest traffic month to date. We saw nearly 126,000 Google Analytics page views. That figure represents a slow build through March (94,184) and April (99,163), and then something of a spike into May.

But what may be more encouraging for us is that GA user figures increased in a sharper trend line: In March, we had 34,459 GA users. That climbed to 39,831 in April and 53,716 in May. That figure for May bests our previous best month by nearly 15,000 users.

While we can certainly attribute some of this to TNCs and the national attention delivered to the city (and us) in the period around the May 7 election, it’s not quite fair to assign all of our growth to that one issue. That barbecue smoke story that got picked up by … Infowars (!) remains our most heavily trafficked, and after that comes our look at the aftermath of the May 7 election.

But an April story from Caleb Pritchard about the ongoing discussion over a surf park in southeastern Travis County comes in third. A March story about the new Hamilton Pool reservation requirements comes in fifth, and a story from last week about a group of neighbors getting sued over a restrictive covenant protest comes in 10th.

In between these is a scattering of stories from 2015. After them is a similar collection of varied coverage.

To me, this means that folks aren’t stopping by for any one thing, and that seems to indicate that we’re earning readers. This, of course, is deeply gratifying. To be sure: I believe that the work that editor Liz Pagano, Clifton and all of our freelancers put in to fulfilling our mission of getting better information to more Central Texans is certainly deserving of these results. And these numbers seem to illustrate that the wider community believes this, too.

None of it would be possible, of course, without the help of our sponsors, our donors and you. You’ve bought in. We’re grateful. And we’ll keep going.


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