Top 40 web rankings provide an interesting look at reader interests

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, December 30, 2015

This week, we have been running a list of the most impactful stories in Niles and Dowagiac as determined by our editorial staff.

We considered overall “buzz” generated by each story, the lasting effects of various news events and the number of people affected by each story.

In addition to that list of stories, though, we’ve been listing the 40 stories that received the most web clicks throughout 2015.

The research method was very straightforward: We used Google Analytics, a web tool that tracks the amount of traffic on websites, to determine which pages on received the most clicks from Jan. 21 through Dec. 23. We excluded landing pages, obituaries and stories that resurfaced after being published in previous years.

To put it simply for those of us who are less web-savvy, we rated the top 40 stories of the year in order of which ones were read the most on the internet.

This report, generated in less than three minutes, provided an enormous amount of insight into what our readers are looking for online.

Among the top 40, six stories were related to business changes — be it improvements, new shopping opportunities or closures.

Twelve stories were focused on emergencies like automobile accidents, fires, missing people and other fatalities.

Twenty-two stories — more than half of our top 40 — were crime-related. Several detailed sentencings in Berrien and Cass County. Some were breaking news events. Others were investigations into recent crimes.

While our findings were not all that surprising, it was certainly interesting to think about what a small percentage of our stories fall into these “hard news” categories, as we refer to them in the news world, that made up 85 percent of the top 40.

Small-town community journalism often focuses on stories that may not make it into other news outlets. We feature the teacher who is working hard on a new way to teach her children, the farmer who grew an enormous pumpkin, the extraordinary volunteer efforts of a local civic organization.

Readers often tell us they want to see more good news like this, and we’re more than happy to provide it. These are the stories that are most fun to tell.

But the fact of the matter is, the “bad news” stories — the ones that are more difficult to investigate and tougher emotionally to write about — are important, too. We recognize that our readers want to know about the crimes their neighbors are committing, the accidents that shut down major roadways and the fires our local officials bravely extinguish.

Of course not all stories will be “bad” and it isn’t likely that our approach at reporting the “good news” will change based on our findings. We feel both sides of the coin are equally important, and we strive to be the watchdogs of the more bleak areas of journalism just as much as we aim to help showcase the great things going on in our communities.

We see that our readers are excited about new business opportunities, and we’ll work to stay on top of those developments and provide updates as quickly as possible.

It’s also important to note that web audiences may not be the same as print audiences. Those of you reading this editorial in the newspaper may have a completely different opinion of what you like to see on the front page. We’d love to hear those opinions.

As we move into 2016, we’ll keep these interests in mind, and keep working hard to provide you the news you need to know, and the stories you want to read.


Opinions expressed are those of the editorial board consisting of Publisher Michael Caldwell and editors Ambrosia Neldon, Craig Haupert, Ted Yoakum and Scott Novak.