online (4)

A new website means time to analyze

The Ball State Daily News just worked with other student media organizations to relaunch


The site is now responsive and works well on mobile devices and tablets, instead of just desktops.

I'm using this new website as an opportunity to pursue my love of data and analytics.


Disclaimer, the relaunch just took place Oct. 16, so any trends or patterns I may think I see from these few weeks following may not be indicative of our overall successes or failures.


But here's what I know:

• For a month prior to to Oct. 16, mobile visits daily accounted for only 0.2 percent of the total. On Oct. 16, mobile visits jumped. They have since accounted for about 34 percent of our daily visits. This jump seems drastic to me, so I have emailed our support folks to see if any other variables may account for the increase.

UPDATE: I learned that because our former website host redirected mobile to a separate website, they had not been collecting data for mobile accurately.


• Between Jan. 1 and Oct. 15, 70 percent of page visits lasted 0-10 seconds. After, about 60 percent stay 0-10 seconds. Conversely, the number of visits lasting 11 seconds or longer has increased.



• Twitter typically has accounted for about a third of our web traffic. With recent breaking news, however, there have been days it has contributed more than half of our overall daily visits. (Side note: We are currently working to cultivate our social media presence. Being a free service to the students, it is crucial that we continue to expand our reach and target students on services they are using most often. We do not want to become an unused app on someone's home screen – we want to actively participate in and engage with students' lives.)


• Not surprisingly, our tablet numbers are staying relatively stagnant. Daily visits were 8 percent from Jan. 1 to Oct. 15, and after have remained at about 5 percent. Ball State has studio that creates digital publications for tablets, and they have found that publications geared toward students have very few downloads. Furthermore, a 2013 survey by Ball State associate professor Michael Hanley shows about 68.3 percent of the student body do not even own tablets. You can't target a demographic that doesn't exist.



So those are the basics. I know I cannot use the statistics from Oct. 16 to present to inform my long-term plans. I have, though, been experimenting with this knowledge on a day-to-day basis, using trending stories and engagement numbers to generate story ideas and manage presentation.


I've always called The Daily News a sort of journalism playground. Analytics help me play.




• Next semester, I'm enrolling in a class that produces a tablet publication, 72HRS. It functions as a weekend supplement to The Daily News. Because people are producing the content specifically for tablets, the content lends itself to interactivity. I am focusing my time in the class on producing this content for, integrating audio, video, photos and interactives so they can supplement each other seamlessly. Or at least, that's the goal.


• As I've mentioned in prior notes about Ball State's Unified Student Media organization, the university's student media organizations have slowly but surely been working together to create a media group. As a part of this, the university is creating a massive, digital-focused newsroom that will be complete in December. They took the walls around it down this week.


• I met Michael Rogers, the former New York Times futurist-in-residence, when he visited Ball State last week. His lecture, Q&A and my discussion with him after were all extremely motivational. That may also become its own blog post, soon.


• There are not enough hours in the day.

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Fun. in the newsroom.

An unstoppable force meeting an immovable object.

That's what I experienced the evening of Jan. 25 when trying to report on Grammy nominated band Fun. using the Ball State Daily News's new –- and sometimes bugged-out –- website.

Instead of going to the concert on Ball State's campus, I opted to stay in the newsroom and coordinate coverage with my managing editor, Steven Williams.

(Click here to see the end-product.)

We created an action plan ahead of time. What would we want to cover? How would we cover it? Who would be where? What play would it receive on our website? Steven and I knew we would be monitoring social media, checking our phones for photos and text updates, and compiling everything for the web.

The Daily News only publishes Monday through Thursday. In the past, we would have run this story in print on Monday, effectively being three days late in our coverage. As a part of our digital-first push, though, we saw that we needed not only to publish a story over the weekend, but that we would need to publish as the concert was happening.

The content we wanted to package included:

  • Video
    • A short, video before of people excited to enter the auditorium
    • Another short video after of people reacting to the show
  • Stories
    • A play-by-play of major events
    • A column discussing the impact of the show
    • A story covering the after party at a local bar
  • Social media
    • Live-tweets & a Twitter widget
    • Collections of photos
    • A Storify
    • A live-updating Instagram widget

We decided that as the show was happening, we would banner our coverage across the top of the homepage. After it ended, we would drop the story into the homepage rotator, along with the others.

Unfortunately (but as expected), not everything worked as planned.

  • Our "before" video of the audience fell through because of an equipment issue
  • The Twitter widget and Storify (and all <script> code, for that matter) are incompatible with our website at the moment
  • The Instagram widget worked, but not as anticipated, thus we had no way of filtering photos except through the #BSUfun, and we had to remove the component when people began posting profane photos (a concern we had from the start).

Here's how we ended up playing everything on the website:

  • At the beginning of the night, we had a banner across the top of our home page linking to a story. The story simply said something along the lines of "check here for updates on the Fun. concert." We included the Instagram widget, and an outside link to our Storify.
  • As things developed, we added them to the story, rewriting as necessary. 
  • Here's what our home page and story looked like about midway through:
    • You can see the Instagram widget on the home page. The photo in the story was sent via text from one of our reporters. You can see how the integration of embedded tweets was awkward because of the unchangeable size of the side elements. I worked around this later.


  • After the show ended, we played things differently:
    • You can see that the banner is gone, replaced by a photo in the rotator. Also, note that in the story, the photo is replaced by a better-quality photo GALLERY. Below it is a link to the Storify. Later, we added the reaction video under the gallery. We also placed it as its own component on the homepage. See also that the tweets look far less awkward here.



The entire time I was posting updates to the website, Steven and I were checking social media for critical information, as well as sharing critical information via social media. Not only that, but we also attempted to engage our followers with conversations. Check #BSUfun -- the hashtag I started -- to see what I mean.

All in all, this was a good dry run. The concert gave us an opportunity to see the strengths and weaknesses of our new site when dealing with live, breaking news and new technologies.

I'm seeing that my interest in news design is integrating well with online journalism. I am able to consider alternative ways to tell stories, as well as how to present elements and information.

Know also that I am gaining an interest in things such as dayparting, managing the Daily News' social media and using Google Analytics to determine when to publish what content.

All in all, my goal is to get good information to the public effectively and efficiently. And I'm loving every minute.

Thanks for checking in!

Stay tuned for updates about this semester –- we have a lot of graphics planned and a talented staff to make it happen.

And, as always, I would love your feedback and advice!


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