shift was developed as a WordPress site. Usage statistics were obtained through Google Analytics. Because shift was only live new content being published and marketing efforts active for a month after its launch, web analytics were interesting, reinforcing and anecdotally useful, but not sufficiently thorough to provide meaningful guidance.
Analytics did seem to indicate, however, that the Fellows’ knowledge of their audience’s interests and web habits, and their continual engagement resulted in strong traffic.
Here is a look at basic web-traffic metrics unique visitors, visits and page views for shift and for the sites of the other seven News21 incubators, sources of shift’s traffic, the site’s “stickiness” and comparison with some other sites.
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sources of traffic| top
Traffic sources, in Google’s analytics, are sorted into direct (the user navigated directly to a shift page), referral (the user arrived at shift from a linking web site) and search (the user came to shift from a search-engine site, e.g. Google).
During shift’s first two months online (July 29 September 30), traffic came most heavily from referral, followed by direct and search. (These traffic sources were basically in line with those of the other incubators.) By the end of the year, the numbers had moved, because there had been neither fresh content nor marketing for four months.
|July 29 Sept. 30||Oct. 1 Dec. 31||July 29 Dec. 31|
Google was the top source of non-direct traffic (by the end of November, it was responsible for more traffic than direct visits) followed by Facebook, the News21 national site and Twitter. That illustrates the power of using general social-networking sites to reach audience.
However, audience-specific sites referred roughly 2000 visitors. These included exchristian.net, mormontimes.com, friendlyatheist.com, ldstoday.com, dreamact.info, angryasianman.com, marfalist.org, dreamactivist.org and scores of others.
shift visitors came from 148 different countries, although that includes many web-searching “spiders” rather than real people. Real-people visitors came predominately from the United States, but with high representations from Canada, the United Kingdom and India.
site stickiness| top
Three statistics reflect a web site’s stickiness, that is, its ability to hold onto the users it attracts. In these measurement’s, shift performance was below the average of the eight incubators.
shift’s visitors, through October 22, viewed 2.2 pages and spent 2 minutes, 47 seconds on the site. Those numbers generally in line with the other incubators’; five of the eight had page views between 2.0 and 3.2, and five had time-on-site between 2:22 and 3:03. shift’s rankings were 7th and 5th, respectively.
shift’s “bounce rate” the percentage of visitors who enter the site and leave without moving to another story was 67%, the highest of the five sites clustered between 59% and 67%.
The relative unstickiness of shift reflected the heavy emphasis on attracting, rather then retaining, audience. Certainly, had the site been active for more than a month, Fellows’ efforts might have been redirected somewhat, as analytics and qualitative audience feedback probably would have suggested. Had the site remained active, it is likely that content and audience constantly would have been refined, resulting in more of a “home” for its users.
Also, the breadth of the topics in contrast to the single-subject depth of reporting that characterized the other incubators’ excellent work seems more likely to attract people interested in a specific story or general topic, rather than those with intense subject interest.
some comparisons| top
Google’s analytics allow comparisons benchmarks, in Google’s terminology to web sites of similar size, with a variety of content focuses, including many that might be interesting to the audience of shift.
We compared shift to newspaper sites, magazine sites and sites with content specific to ethnic and identity groups; East Asian and Asian-Americans; Arab and Middle Eastern; East Indian and South Asian; GLBT; and religion/spirituality sites.
In almost all cases, shift had a higher percentage of new users (which stands to reason, as a new site), its users spent more per-visit time on the site but visit slightly fewer pages, and had a higher bounce rate.
In some benchmarking GLBT, religion/spirituality, ethnic and identity groups, and magazines of the comparably sized web sites shift was attracting more visitors.