Saturday, December 4, 2021
Dec. 4, 2021

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From the Newsroom: Taking stock of readers’ interests

By , Columbian Editor

Last year was a crazy busy year for news. I am sure you noticed!

The presidential campaign/election/challenge story lingered through Inauguration Day, and the coronavirus pandemic has now surpassed a year in the news. Both those stories are continuing, of course. I checked our archive and we appear to have had at least one mention of former President Donald Trump every day this month; our most recent photo of him was printed on Feb. 26. And the virus story will be a fixture for many months to come as we work our way through getting vaccinated and, hopefully, achieving the coveted herd immunity status.

But both of these stories are probably past their peaks. That led me to wonder: What stories are popular with Columbian readers right now?

Of course, we can’t measure which stories are read in the print edition in the privacy of your own home. But we can tell which stories are the most popular online. I get a daily report of the 10 most-read stories on our site.

Curious as to what was popular, I went back and looked at seven days of online reports, from Wednesday, March 3, through Tuesday, March 9. I would be the first to tell you this is not a scientific approach to research, but it was a pretty normal week for news. Plus, I had the reports available.

My first observation: Local news tends to dominate our readership, which is good. That’s what we try to do best. And that was true in the week I studied.

The story that got the most readership in a single day was our March 8 story about Forbes Magazine ranking Vancouver as one of the very best places to visit during the pandemic. That didn’t surprise me. Who wouldn’t like to read about how great we are? And this story had a twist, in that it also seemed to confuse us with Walla Walla. (If you haven’t been there, you should visit. It’s great: leafy downtown; quality wine; imposing prison.)

The biggest story over the course of the week was the announcement that a New Seasons Market is planned for a big empty block at 15th and Main streets downtown. The original story and several follow-ups were in the Top 10 on five of the seven days I looked at.

In fact, readers showed a lot of interest in business news. Out of 70 Top 10 stories, business news accounted for 23 of them. As The Columbian’s former business editor, this warms my heart. Business stories frequently account for a third or more of our annual Top Stories of the Year list that we publish on the last Sunday in December.

Another big story for the week fell between the business and government categories. It was a story about plans by some local housing developers to create a “dirt dump” for their excess soil on a rural parcel near Ridgefield. Neighbors don’t like the idea and have asked the county to reconsider its decision that the project should be permitted. Interestingly enough, this story first appeared in our Monday ePaper, which we launched in January. It’s been well-received by our readers. As a reminder, every print edition of The Columbian is also available as an ePaper. Access is included in your home delivery subscription.

What else is popular with Columbian online readers right now? COVID-19 stories, particularly about where and how to get vaccinated, accounted for 16 stories. Stories about government and politics made the list 10 times in seven days, as did stories about crimes and fires. Those “mayhem” stories are always popular, as you know if you watch local television news, where story selection is, at least in part, driven by ratings and audience size.

Local sports were also popular with Columbian readers, placing eight stories in the Top 10 over the course of the week. The stories were mostly about high school athletics, although a story about a La Center native running his first Iditarod race was also in the Top 10 on March 4.

Although we are always trying to look forward in the news business, sometimes it’s interesting to look back. Thanks for being our customer and reading all of these stories.