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First findings from NewsTrust Baltimore

We've begun to analyze the statistical data from the first three months of the NewsTrust Baltimore pilot, and we'd like to share some of our first findings. These results suggest that our local news experiment was well-received, with encouraging levels of participation from the Baltimore community. Here are some of the highlights.

 

Web traffic: How many people checked out the site?

A total of 11,215 people visited NewsTrust Baltimore during the first three months of the pilot, from January 31 to April 30, 2011, according to Google Analytics. This exceeded our goal of 10,000 unique visitors for that period. In April, once we were in full swing, we counted 4,128 monthly unique visitors to our site, which is more than 10 percent of a typical month's traffic on our national NewsTrust.net site.

During our first three months, people visited 4.26 pages per visit, for an average of 5 minutes and 20 seconds, which we view as a very positive indicator of participation. This suggests that visitors were really taking the time to read and engage with the stories we listed on our site.

Here are the main sources of traffic to NewsTrust Baltimore, according to Google Analytics:

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Member stats: Who used NewsTrust?

Of the 11,215 people who came to NewsTrust Baltimore in our first three months, 514 signed up and became NewsTrust members.

These members can be broken down into these groups:

Chart1

Of the people who signed up, 64 percent reviewed a story on NewsTrust, while 36 percent did not, based on our internal SQL database.

The breakdown of reviewers and non-reviewers by membership group was interesting; most college students (89 percent) reviewed at least one story, comprising more than half of all reviews on the site. But only 32 percent of non-affiliated members, including the general public, reviewed stories. Among members of our partner organizations who signed up for NewsTrust, 74 percent of educational partners reviewed stories, while 50 percent of media partners reviewed. These statistics suggest that our service was more appealing in educational settings than it was for consumers or media partners.

An interesting way to visualize who did and did not review is to break down reviewers and non-reviewers separately. The colorful chart on the left is the breakdown, by group, of the 64 percent of members who reviewed stories. The gray chart on the right breaks down by group the 36 percent who did not review:

3-4

 

Content stats: What kinds of stories did we find and review?

In the first three months of the pilot, members read (or at least clicked on) 7,426 news and opinion stories. That includes stories that came from our RSS feeds, as well as the 3,262 stories that were manually posted by members. Of these 3,262 stories, 84 percent were posted by NewsTrust staff, as we had expected based on prior experience with local news hunts. But for this pilot, college students actually contributed more reviews than our staff did, which shows a healthy level of activity from young participants.

Of all those stories, 1,106 received a rating, from 2,687 reviews. Here's how the reviews broke down by regular members, members who reached Trusted Member status, and staff:

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We reviewed a range of stories across a wide variety of topics. Here are the top 10 most-reviewed stories from the first three months of the pilot:

  1. "Opting out - Kweisi Mfume not running in mayor’s race, councilman says"
     - from Investigative Voice -- 94 reviews
  2. "Supreme Court Rules For Military Funeral Protesters"
     - from the Associated Press -- 51 reviews
  3. "Made (once again) in America"
     - from The Baltimore Sun -- 46 reviews
  4. "On the Trail of Addiction"
     - from Urbanite -- 43 reviews
  5. "More renewable energy policies aim to save money and environment"
     - from Maryland Reporter -- 37 reviews
  6. "14 year old Baltimore boy facing charges for beating grandmother in head with hammer"
     - from Investigative Voice -- 26 reviews
  7. "The Sun Also Rises"
     - from Urbanite -- 21 reviews
  8. "Former Governor And Baltimore Mayor William Donald Schaefer Dies At 89"
     - from WYPR -- 20 reviews
  9. "Baltimore loses federal lead-paint funding"
     - from The Baltimore Sun -- 18 reviews
  10. "Victim of McDonald's beating speaks out"
     - from The Baltimore Sun -- 14 reviews

 

Other findings

Our team wrote 44 blog posts on the NewsTrust Baltimore Blog, providing informative summaries of the nine news hunts we held in the first three months of the pilot, as well as other important events, accomplishments and milestones. These activities and campaigns produced some positive results; 117 participants advanced to a higher member level, and we identified 58 Trusted Members, who earned the trust of our community through their thoughtful reviews. We also certified 62 student reviewers and gave three superlative awards for their contributions to the site.

Those are the nitty-gritty stats for the first three months of the NewsTrust Baltimore pilot. We will update these numbers again when our six-month pilot ends in July. In our next post, we'll share some of the qualitative feedback we received in our last survey. Stay tuned!

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About NewsTrust Baltimore

  • NewsTrust Baltimore is a local news experiment that aims to help Baltimore residents find good journalism about their area. Our web review tools let you rate the news based on journalistic quality, not just popularity. We're non-profit, non-partisan, and committed to helping citizens make informed decisions about democracy. More »

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