It probably comes as no surprise, but college students are interested in about the same kinds of stories as the rest of us.
The top stories on the student Web site at Monroe County Community College so far this semester – www.mcccagora.com – involve television, death, sex and religion.
I remember when the Internet first began providing fresh new insight into reader interests. It was a real shock – and not a pleasant one.
Prior to the Internet, newspapers had only the most rudimentary research on what readers liked. Based on surveys, we knew that they preferred local news to state and national news. But there was no clear picture of what “local news” meant.
And besides, it only took a small amount of common sense to realize that what people told the friendly voice on the other end of the phone when answering survey questions, and what they really did, may not be exactly the same.
They could “say” they were interested in local government news. But did they really read the stories?
Then along came the Internet. Computer software could measure exactly which stories readers “clicked” on. There was no guessing. A click was a click.
And the results were shocking. Day after day, crime topped the list of news people actually read. When sex was involved, the interest really shot up. Entertainment news also was popular, as well as anything controversial – which is where religion often comes in.
The top four stories on The Agora’s Web site so far this semester:
No. 1: A story about a TV sitcom produced and acted by local residents and presented on Monroe’s Public Access TV station, MPACT.
No. 2: The death of a college employee who was a former student.
No. 3: An exhibit and lecture on sex trafficking, planned later this month at the Whitman Center.
No. 4: A column on the mosque and cultural center planned for Manhattan near the site of the World Trade Center.
No surprises there. After more than a decade of watching Internet viewing statistics, I’m used to it.
What about the “important” stories, like the visit to MCCC by a group from a Chinese college, or the record enrollment, or faculty negotiations going to mediation.
The China story ranks 21 on the list, negotiations are at No. 20, and enrollment is at 32.
Again, no surprises. Regret, maybe, but not surprise.
Of course, The Agora Web site is fairly new. It’s still in its first year, and it doesn’t get that much traffic yet. While there have been as many as 6,000 page views in a day, the typical number is more like 150.
Like many news Web sites, Google is the number one source of visitors. Most of the Google visitors come for the movie reviews. They search Google for “Nightmare on Elm Street,” and a student-written review at little MCCC appears.
A close second is viewers who come directly to the site – probably mostly students and employees who either have it bookmarked or just type in the address.
The next two sources are interesting – people who link from the college Web site, www.monroeccc.edu, and people who start with The Agora’s Facebook page and link back to the Web site.
Those four sources account for 90 percent of the visitors. A few also arrive from Yahoo and Bing, and from other college newspaper Web sites – we’re in a network of about 600 college newspapers – and from assorted other links.
I keep waiting for the day the Web site is discovered by more Monroe County residents. Because we haven’t done anything to promote it, most local residents don’t know it exists.
It’s my experience that these things happen virally. One of these days a story on www.mcccagora.com will make the rounds through local computers, and people will discover the site.