I want to share with you some information about the great progress we’ve been making in building this platform for a public conversation about our political future. I promise I won’t be writing many braggy articles about our growth.
Traffic Is Through the Roof
Traffic has been growing slowly and steadily over the past few months. But it really took off once we approached the primary. I know that politics web sites get a temporary jump in traffic around primary day. But we’ve taken a huge jump that is more than just primary traffic – over 5x growth in the past few days.
I’m not ready to give everyone raw traffic numbers, but I’d like to give you a sense of the scale of our growth. Over the past two and a half months we have reached over 40,000 unique viewers. But we are reaching over 5,000 per day in the past week. We’ve served over 100,000 articles in the last two months.
We are comparing well against established Massachusetts political blogs, RedMassGroup and BlueMassGroup. These are excellent resources and we don’t expect to replace them. Our site is different. Where they are party oriented discussion forums, this blog is more about just posting what is happening in Massachusetts politics. We don’t have nearly the user engagement that they do. But our traffic is quickly growing to match theirs.
The graph is a comparison of traffic estimates from compete.com from March until the end of August, before our traffic began to really jump.
The orange line is RedMassGroup, green is BlueMassGroup, blue is ME2010 – the underdog. We were catching up fast two weeks ago- we are growing faster now. You can view their raw data here.
The majority of the growth has been coming from search engines. Google is now serving our pages over 200,000 times per month.
Quality of Traffic
Our bounce rate is about 50%. That is users who look at pages, and leave almost immediately. This isn’t bad for a site like ours. We’ve steadily lowered it from 75% a few months back as our articles have become more complete. The users who don’t ‘bounce out’ read an average of 4 articles and stay an average of 6 minutes.
By comparison the RedMassGroup and BlueMassGroup’s readers view an average of 7 pages, and stay for about 12 minutes. Being a discussion site they load more pages because they are commenting. We need to do a better job of encouraging viewers to participate in discussion.
Social Media Growth
We’ve been adding social media followers very quickly. We’re almost to 1000 twitter followers reaching toward 300 facebook followers. You can become one of them by following our twitter or facebook page.
Check out this graph of our user engagement on facebook. The blue line is the total number of members of our facebook page. The green line is the number of new users per day. The near vertical growth in middle July doesn’t really count. That was from moving users from our Facebook group page to a FaceBook fan page. We’ve seen FaceBook growth slow down now that the FaceBook button is in the header.
I’m looking for ways to make the Facebook button more visible while still keeping the site’s layout focused on the articles.
This is the twitter growth since April. The blue line is followers. The red line is people we are following. At the start the blog was following a lot of people to see if we could get some attention. It worked. When we stopped doing that followers leveled off. Now we just auto-follow anyone who follows us, so the two lines match up.
Every time we post a good article we get several more followers on twitter.
What I’m happiest about is the quality of our followers. Check them out – we have the best people on that list – candidates, journalists, activists. People who are really engaged in the political process.
How We Got Here
I started this blog back in February on a lark. It was a quiet afternoon and I thought I’d write down a few things I’d been following in Massachusetts politics. It doesn’t take much to start a blog. I logged in to wordpress.com, made a blog and posted a little information.
It grew from there, posting more articles, covering more races. For several months it was just me, writing a new post every few days. But it was exciting when a post got picked up by a larger news site and the traffic suddenly jumped to what was then stratospheric levels – 800 visitors.
We’ve come a long way, and growth has now started to accelerate.
Other people started writing in. First a few independent campaigns who didn’t have a lot of other outlets. Little by little more campaigns started noticing that we have a nice little platform to help them reach voters. We’re now getting a few articles every day from candidates – most days. And other people have joined us to help research and write articles. I could not do this alone.
In mid July we outgrew our wordpress.com blog and migrated to a more powerful wordpress.org system. Check out the old blog to see how far we’ve come. We upgraded the theme to be wider and easier to read. We moved the navigational elements to the right to help put the focus on the articles. We changed the category navigation to be collapsible because we were now covering so many more races. And we added links to relevant articles on every article.
At the beginning of August we built a database and populated it with all the raw campaign information we could find. We’ve got every candidate’s web site, facebook, twitter, email and more. It is now easy for us to post quick race profiles with articles. We’re always working to make the technology better.
And there are big plans to make the site even more functional.
We Can Do Even Better Working Together
This site was never meant as a permanent fixture. We’re here to help people get the best information possible for the 2010 election, and then we are gone. This is a non-commercial venture to help us get the best government possible next year.
The site is not party partisan – though it has been leaning Republican. We’re interested in helping outsiders and independent thinking candidates get elected. In Massachusetts – which has been dominated by Democrats for so long – that often means covering Republican candidates. But we are really open to all points of view.
I’ve got strong opinions and I write a lot of these articles. So maybe the whole site skews to my point of view. But I don’t want it to be about me and what I think. Anyone who wants to contribute thoughtful articles on the political process – from any perspective is welcome to participate. Register yourself here, post an article and we will publish it. We reserve the right not to publish abusive articles – but so far everything submitted has been thoughtful and we’ve published it.
Candidates – We Want to Hear From You
We’ve been building this platform so that voters can get your message.
You are the champions of our Democracy. It isn’t easy to run for office – especially if you are new, unknown and underfunded. We’ve worked with a number of first time candidates. We know how hard it is to put yourself out there for public scrutiny, to get the signatures to get on the ballot and to knock on the doors of all your neighbors.
It is through your efforts that the issues we all live with are heard. Tell us why you are running, how you can help solve the state’s problems, and why voters should chose you.
Register on our site and post articles – they go right to the front page and get twittered to everyone.
I recommend that you talk directly to voters, in the first person. We are a little bit restrictive about posting press releases about endorsements or straight appeals for fundraising. Voters would rather hear about the issues you stand for.
We’ve written about a lot of candidates and we call it like we see it. Sometimes our articles can be a little harsh – especially on incumbents. If you think we’ve been unfair to you – let us know. We will post your point of view. Your article will not be edited – we will give voters your side of the story.
Thanks For Helping With this Experiment
I could not have done this alone. I want to thank all the people who have helped: Susan, Gary, Rachel, Jack, Eli, Bob, Ned, Terry, Rich, Joe, Peter, Steve and others. Thank you for writing articles, doing research, pointing me to stories, sending me data, and all the encouragement. We could not get this far without all of your help. It is the great content that you help to produce that makes people want to read what we post.
I also need to thank all the candidates who have been sending in articles. People want to know where you stand on the issues and how you are different. Especially those of you who started sending in stories early before this whole thing started to snowball. Thanks for taking a chance on this untested platform.
I have to especially thank my mom and dad. Thanks for the encouragement. Especially you mom, for helping edit and clean up articles.