Eye on metrics, reader engagement grow photo gallery audience

Something was bugging Photo Editor Vern Williams. The New Haven Register had published some great photos of a Hamden Hall high school basketball playoff game. They appeared in a gallery on the newspaper’s beautiful new “Media Center” platform.

Hamden Hall Country Day School defeats Rye Country Day School 64 -63 for the Fairchester League Championship Saturday February 25, 2012. VM Williams/Register

But it received only 880 page views. Not bad, but not the kind of juice that other galleries were getting from a site that was scoring some great search engine traffic and audience referrals from stories on the newspaper’s main site.

Vern wanted a second chance.

The team’s next game wasn’t assigned by the sports department, but he went out and shot it himself. No photos made the print edition, and the story that appeared on the main website about it received only 107 page views.

This time, the gallery of the Hamden Hall game would do much better.

The sports department promoted it via social media, and linked to it from the story about the game. And Vern followed the right steps in writing a good headline for SEO.

But he also took the time to find out who manages Hamden Hall’s own website. He contacted that person, sent the link and suggested they might want to let their students, parents and alumni know about this wonderful gallery of shots from the big game.

It worked. Page views increased from the previous game’s 880 views to 5,424, and counting.

Direct reader engagement and networking can pay off where SEO can’t sometimes, and your reach via social media is only as strong as the breadth and attention span of your network. By keeping an eye on metrics, and trying new things to see a different result, Vern Williams figured that out.

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About mattderienzo

Matt DeRienzo has worked for more than 20 years as a reporter, editor, publisher and corporate editorial director and has been recognized nationally for leading newsroom innovation. Most recently, he served as group editor of Digital First Media's publications in Connecticut, including the New Haven Register, Middletown Press, Register Citizen and Connecticut Magazine, and Northeast regional editor for Digital First Media. Previously, he served as publisher of The Register Citizen, Middletown Press and a group of weeklies in Northwest Connecticut, and before that was corporate director of news for small dailies and non-daily publications for the former Journal Register Company. In early 2011, The Register Citizen was named one of Editor & Publisher magazine's "10 Newspapers That Do It Right," and DeRienzo was named to its annual "25 Under 35" list of leaders in the newspaper industry. In the fall of 2011, The Register Citizen was awarded the Associated Press Managing Editors Innovator of the Year Award in recognition of The Register Citizen Newsroom Cafe, an "open newsroom" launched in Torrington, Connecticut, in December 2010. He led a team of more than 100 journalists in covering the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in late 2012 and 2013, and has been honored for his editorial writing and leadership of public service and investigative reporting. In 2014, his efforts at the New Haven Register were recognized with the APME's and ASNE's Robert C. McGruder Award for Leadership in Newsroom Diversity. DeRienzo is a longtime board member of the United Way of Northwest Connecticut, and has served as co-chairman of the United Way's annual fundraising campaign in 2009 and again in 2011. In 2011, he received the organization's Lifetime Achievement Award.
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