A couple of weeks ago, I was updating the C&EN data in a society-wide quarterly update for the ACS Board of Directors. I asked C&EN Online Production Manager Luis Carrillo for usage data for the first six months of 2009 compared with the same period in 2008.
The numbers he sent me didn’t seem to make sense: There had been a 52% increase in overall page views and a staggering 132% increase in page views of C&EN Online Latest News pages.
I asked him to look into the data a little further, and he sent me a spreadsheet with a version of the graph that appears on this page. I replied that something must be screwy because there was no reason for the sharp increase in Latest News readership that showed up in May.
It turns out there was a reason for the sharp increase. In April, the Publications Division turned on a new feature on the home page of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, “JACS Research in C&EN,” a box that links to stories in C&EN on papers appearing in the society’s flagship journal. There are two or three such stories every week. Creation of the links on the JACS home page resulted in a 497% jump in May in visits from that page to C&EN.
I’ve been a journalist for nearly three decades. As C&EN’s managing editor, I oversaw the creation of C&EN Online in 1998. From 2004 through 2007, I was responsible for the ACS Web Presence Initiative, the project that reinvented www.acs.org. Although I have the reputation around C&EN’s offices as being a bit of a technology curmudgeon—people claim I roll my eyes whenever someone mentions Twitter—I am very cognizant of how technology is changing journalism.
C&EN has been writing concentrates and news stories about JACS papers forever; those stories have been available on C&EN Online since it was created. We build a simple link from the JACS home page to those stories, and suddenly on the order of 400,000 more people at least glance at the C&EN stories each month.
Technology is not just changing how we distribute information, it is changing the nature of the information people want delivered to them. We created “C&ENtral Science,” the permanent C&EN blog, in March 2008. It receives a steady stream of traffic, although not enough to write home about.
A few weeks ago, C&EN Senior Editor Lisa Jarvis spent two weeks as one of nine visiting journalists at the National Science Foundation’s Toolik Field Station in northern Alaska working with scientists doing ecological research. Jarvis is one of the champions of “C&ENtral Science,” and she posted entries on her activities in the Arctic on June 23 and 26. Those entries received about the usual amount of traffic.
Then she posted a blog entry on July 6 after her return on “what environmental scientists do for fun when the nearest watering hole or movie theater is a 350-mile drive down the Dalton Highway.” What they did for fun was create a hilarious video tribute to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” and Jarvis’ blog posting linked to a YouTube video of the group event.
Well, the Anchorage Daily News picked up on Jarvis’ post, and on July 9, “C&ENtral Science” had its busiest day ever, 4,316 visits, with 3,709 of those visits to the “Thriller” post. To date, Jarvis’ posting has received more than 10,000 page views, 15% of the 65,000 page views “C&ENtral Science” has received in 2009.
C&EN Online is an integral component of the package of news and information C&EN delivers daily and weekly. Some of the content is as serious as a news item on an important research paper in JACS; some of it is as silly as a bunch of environmental scientists dancing to “Thriller.” We think it’s all part of keeping you up to date on the chemistry enterprise.
Thanks for reading … in print and online!