The readership results are in…

It’s been two semesters since moving our Magazine, Substance, over to Medium, and one full semester since moving the entire newsroom over to Medium.

Students are working on a complete analysis of our stats along with some pretty charts, but I’m going to break it down in simple terms. HOLY CRAP. Substance Magazine stated publishing in 2007. It was created by my first group of magazine students with the intent of producing a glossy and visually beautiful college magazine with well written stories of Substance. The magazine came out once per semester and 5,000 copies were distributed across campus. Unlike the campus newspaper, the magazine was picked up by students but once gone, that was it– until the next semester’s issue. The students also published all stories online to a site they set up for the magazine, but reader views for the stories all fell under 200.

Killing the magazine was the most difficult decision because unlike the newspaper staff, the class of students who produced actually enjoyed producing it. But the editors felt we could be reaching a much wider audience, and have lasting power, on Medium. They were right.

The publication launched on Medium and the readership analytics were impressive. We watched every story hit over 1k, with others hitting over 10 and 12k. This was in the first few days. The stats continued to jump daily. The students were writing stories that resonated with not just our college students, but all college students. The story, “Actually I’m not White” is about a girl who has a fair complexion but is Latina. She talks about prejudice within her own culture, and follows her story with a second one, “Scrub the Brown Away” about dark skin Latinas and the judgement thrown at them within the Hispanic community.

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While the stats for all stories were impressive, other news organizations picking up our stories gave these stories wings. A story about Valley Fever, a deadly disease that a person can only get if living in California, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada, had 11,400 views in 36 hours but when it was picked up by the Daily Dot, it had 25,000 shares in 24 hours.

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We noticed that when the Daily Dot picked it up, they changed the photo. While we all felt our writer’s photo, taken by him, better represented the story, The Daily Dot’s may have been better for getting readers to click on the story.

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Aside from the crazy readership, the opportunities this is presenting for students is making our move even more exciting. Albert Serna wrote the story “Gay, Latino, Machismo” which brought in over 14,000 views in 24 hours and continues to jump, but the opportunities that have come Albert’s way are the most impressive. Albert is writing for Latino Voices on Huffington Post, producing a video project, and writing his own series. He is asked to be a part of more projects than he has time for. He is making a name for himself before he even leaves community college.

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Photographer Pablo Unzueta’s story about gun violence,  his story about the Ferguson protests, and his ongoing chronicling of homelessness in features like Under the Bridge helped him gain national recognition from professional news organizations. These same photos have been featured on Time magazine and LA Times, and Huffington Post.

Battle of the Bush, a story that tells the history of pubic hair removal, had a slow start but when medium staff recommended it, it jumped to over 10k within 24 hours.

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This made us really look at the power of medium staff recommendations. When medium staff would click that beautiful little heart, the stories exploded. However, we didn’t want to rely on medium staff referrals so we really made a concerted effort to promote each story. Will write about this in more detail soon.

The move to medium has not only made us look closely at our analytics, but it is making us see the power of this kind of exposure. To watch students be given the kinds of opportunities coming their way is success that can’t be measured with metrics.

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