Who's paying attention?
Writing regularly on the Editorial and OpEd pages, one may become entranced with the obvious wisdom and cleverness of each weekly installment. The foolish writer ought to know better, but it is hard (you will agree) to control the ingrowing worm of self-satisfaction.
Fortunately, newspapering has a distinctly conversational component. It's a two-way street. Stern correction and illumination are ready to hand. I'm happy to report that incoming traffic has gotten heavier.
In community newspapering, there are the facts, the photographs, the lists, the dates and times and deaths and births, and the gossip and advertisements and news and opinions and editorials. All this is our side of the weekly chat. Then there are the letters, phone calls, and office visits, which are the other side. They apply a sort of pest control for that worm I mentioned.
Now, the web has added enormously to the legion of participants in the weekly conversation. In fact, it's no longer a weekly conversation at all. It's daily, non-stop. To the collection of stuff our side contributes to the commotion, we've added videos, the web cam, a Reader Forum, the Weather Station, and there's more on the way.
Representing you, we are familiar with letter writers, and with the unrestrained nature of their responses to Island affairs, and to our take on those affairs. But, now, we pay attention to the Reader Forum posters, who hurtle off on conversations that may have begun with a news story, a published letter in print, or an Editorial, but tend in directions we never could have imagined.
As is true of letter writers, some posters are funny, some warmhearted, some caustic. Some letter writers focus irritatingly and predictably on just a few subjects. Others spread themselves like cluster bombs over anything that moves on the political and human landscapes.
Some communicate with us via the Feedback feature on mvtimes.com, some use the list of e-mail addresses on the Contact pages. They write about the web cam, the videos, about environmental and energy affairs, about the movies, immigration, haiku, and on and on. Nearly all subjects, and all posters, are in bounds.
But the growing reach of the conversation now includes the more than 73,000 website visitors, who account for more than 340,000 page views a week. The hit parade for visitors includes the web cam, videos such as the Daggett house move, the Norton Point opening, and the Reader Forum. (For instance, the ongoing discussion of immigration issues in the Reader Forum has attracted 505 posts and 45,212 views.)
This growth of visitor numbers has several implications. First, because of the videos we've added and the growing visitorship, we've had to enlarge the bandwidth we lease from the server farm that hosts the web site. Those of you who've experienced slow access to the site or to the features you want, bear with us, mvtimes.com will shift to larger servers this week.
Of course, we wonder if growing web visitorship will mean a decline in the appetite for the print newspaper. According to the Circulation Verification Council, an independent firm that audits Martha's Vineyard Times circulation and surveys the newspaper's readership, that's not the case. The Times in print circulates an average of 15,000 copies weekly. A total of 98.2 percent of Vineyard households receive the paper, and readers in 78.3 percent of these households read the paper each week. In addition, of the copies sold on newsstands, fewer than 20 percent are returned to the newspaper. Of the 313 Islanders interviewed by surveyors, every one responded that he or she reads or looks through the newspaper weekly. And, 75 percent of them said that they frequently purchase products or services from ads they saw in the paper.
So, the good news is that folks are paying attention. The not-so-good news is that the weekly report of visitors can be disheartening to those of us who may have thought every word we inscribed was gold. Editorials rank way below Classifieds, the District Court Report, even Obituaries. It's clear that you're paying attention, but it's also clear that you're picking and choosing.