Data Study: Insights From Analyzing 30,000 Articles

Do you have the time to analyze 30,000 articles and create strategic recommendations for your media business?

Few do. That’s why we brought together one of our customers, the Portland Press Herald, with one of our Content Consulting partners, News Revenue Hub, during a critical moment of transformation for the 162-year old publication. 

What follows is the full 20-page analysis document and recommendations provided by News Revenue Hub, with only slight obfuscation to some of the numbers (for competitive purposes). 

The organizations involved

  • The Portland Press Herald, Maine’s largest news organization and biggest newspaper, is part of the Maine Trust for Local News, a subsidiary of the nonprofit National Trust for Local News. They are a WordPress VIP customer. 
  • The News Revenue Hub is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to preserve the public’s access to news and information. The Hub provides a range of services, including consulting on reader revenue strategies and audience development. It also operates the free fundraising platform News Revenue Engine.
  • WordPress VIP is the CMS that provides both content management and content analytics ( was used to generate the analysis below. 

What the Portland Press Herald wanted to achieve

The Portland Press Herald is transforming from its heritage as a print-focused operation to a new future as a digital, agile media organization. Such efforts involve a complete reworking of strategy and analysis. They had already planned to bring in long-term consultants as part of their ongoing newsroom transformation initiative, and wanted News Revenue Hub’s analysis to serve as a foundational kickoff document. 

Here were their priority areas for News Revenue Hub’s analysis:

  • Assistance identifying and establishing the key audience-oriented metrics and supporting analytics workflows.
  • Which stories to do less of.
  • Optimal publishing times for digital content.
  • Strategies for shared content models, wire content, and transferable best practices across portfolio media properties.
  • Long-term analysis.


News Revenue Hub analyzed traffic data for the period January 2023-November 2023. Specifically, they looked at: 

  • Traffic trends, top referral sources, and top sections (in aggregate and by average performance per story) across two readership segments:
    • General audience: All users who visited the site.
    • Logged-in users: Users with sessions categorized as “logged-in” during that time frame, which includes print subscribers, digital subscribers, and registered users.
  • Traffic distribution for 30.3k stories published during this 11-month period to ascertain benchmark metrics in aggregate, across sections, and within readership segments. This was broken down where possible by wire content and staff/locally-written articles. 
  • Readership behavior broken down by sources of traffic, peak audience time periods, and coverage analysis for select sections and article categories.
  • Topic distribution across the lowest 28% of stories by pageviews to determine potential areas to refocus time and energy on.

The results

After receiving the analysis from News Revenue Hub, the Portland Press Herald noted these are the strategic changes they are implementing:

  • Publish time patterns will stay the same, but promotion times will change.
  • They’re doubling down on email/newsletter strategies, as logged-in traffic is dependent on newsletters as the primary interface for traffic.
  • They’re cutting the previous practice of pushing small-bore national sports content to the web.
  • Starting point for long-term consultants involved in their ongoing newsroom transformation initiative.

A note on data obfuscation

The numbers in this public version of the report are real, but obfuscated by multiplying by a consistently applied integer. The goal of publishing this report was to publish something useful for content and media professionals. We also wanted to showcase some of the power of Analytics. 

Utility comes from reality with this kind of report—the closer we are to publishing real data, the more useful the contents of the report are. That said, true traffic results are highly sensitive information for competitive newspapers. 

Our solution was to multiply the “performance” numbers (traffic, users, etc.—not things like story count or publish time) by a randomly chosen integer between 25% and 400%, and not publicly reveal which integer in that spectrum we chose to multiply all the numbers by. 

We used the same integer across all performance data—it was consistently applied, so the ratio between multiple tables, graphs, and similar across the 20 pages is internally consistent. We didn’t multiply one page view count by .25 and another by .75, for example. We used the same integer for all the multiplications of pageview and user counts. 

Below is an example of this approach. Notice how the percentage in the bottom row stayed consistent. 

Without further ado, here is the News Revenue Hub report, published in full. 

Portland Press Herald traffic audit and recommendations 


This document is a traffic and coverage analysis for Portland Press Herald to help assess the following questions: 

  • What topic areas are resonating most with Portland Press Herald readers? 
  • Which metrics are relevant and should we pay attention to going forward? 
  • Which areas could we spend less time on to focus resources elsewhere? 

In exploring these questions, our goal is to provide and delineate some clear opportunities and frameworks to adopt as the Portland Press Herald strategizes its digital transformation.

1: Metrics that matter

Portland Press Herald’s audience hasn’t been immune to pandemic traffic ebbs and flows, but the continued growth of logged-in readers, most of them paying subscribers, is a positive sign of how strong your newsroom is at engaging and retaining loyal audiences. To build a resilient plan prioritizing long-term growth, we recommend monitoring metrics across two dimensions.  

  • Define and measure funnel growth on a monthly or quarterly basis among leadership: Your metrics reporting at a high level should align with the touchpoints and opportunities your readers have to deepen their engagement and relationship with the Portland Press Herald. What are some of the behaviors or actions readers take before becoming a subscriber that indicate a desire for increased engagement?
    • Why this matters: Given traffic trends, it’s imperative to keep an eye on retaining and growing your loyal reader base while seeing how more casual readers will interact with your newsroom in the upcoming election year. Implementing this cadence of tracking will ensure that your leadership and editors can keep a pulse of how readers are engaging with your newsroom. Additionally, focusing on monthly or quarterly analysis can build space for conversations regarding longer term strategy. See Monitoring Funnel Growth 
  • Referrers and average article performance: Your regular and weekly metrics reporting should include sources of traffic in aggregate and by article for your readers, both general audience and logged-in users, so your teams can better understand and empathize with how your readership is finding your coverage. We also recommend tracking average article performance over time and across section areas. This is easy in tools like, and can help you build a better sense of what sorts of stories on an individual basis are resonating most with readers.
    • Why this matters: Your digital transformation will hinge on a greater understanding of how and when readers are finding Portland Press Herald coverage, and transforming workflows so you can better meet readers where they are. While leadership should also focus on the high-level funnel metrics, newsroom editors should monitor individual article performance over time. See Meeting readers where they are and Top topic areas

2:  Search represents a large opportunity in 2024, but also a helpful flag to diversify audience strategies

Google Search is by far the top source of traffic for the Portland Press Herald across readership segments. Nearly 50% of readers find Portland Press Herald stories and coverage through search; the next largest source of traced traffic is email, comprising 12% of traffic. Direct traffic, the traffic that Google Analytics and can’t identify, makes up 21% of traffic. In the short-term, we recommend training staff on search engine optimization and making sure search is a key consideration in breaking news workflows; in the long-term, we encourage you to start thinking about other platforms to invest down on to wean your reliance off search. Regardless, having a keen understanding of keywords and search optimization enables a deeper understanding of what readers want and how they navigate the internet — even if search disappears, the lessons learned from search optimization are transferable for your editors and reporters to think audience-first. 

  • Train staff on SEO for articles and large news events: It’s important to train staff on how to think about when and where readers will find Portland Press Herald stories, especially when it comes to Google search. These training sessions will help reporters and editors write headlines that will make it easy for readers searching for that information to find your articles, and also build instincts on when to publish stories that match when people need and want to read news. Beyond individual article SEO, it will also be important to train on SEO strategies for large, breaking news events, where focusing on how to best guide readers to the latest, up-to-date news is paramount.

  • Why this matters: To maintain momentum as the source of breaking news and reliable news coverage heading into an election year, focusing on SEO workflows will help you ensure each article has the best chance of finding readers. As a note, the Hub offers an SEO training module tailored for local newsrooms. See Meeting readers where they are and Building strategies to propel coverage strengths  

  • Build a plan for diversifying audience strategies, focusing first on email and newsletters: The high proportion of Google Search traffic should also raise some warning bells in an age of platform shifts and generative search changes. We recommend focusing first on building a strong newsletter retinue that can help deepen engagement with casual readers, and serve as an intermediary step for these visitors to become subscribers. There’s plenty of runway and headroom to explore what this looks like, whether that’s building out a suite of reporter-driven and anchored newsletters, or launching new newsletters focused on big events (one example could be a short-run newsletter for the 2024 election).

  • Capitalize on recirculation to focus on growing leads: More than 20% of your readers come directly to your site — make sure you’re capitalizing on opportunities to drive these readers deeper into the site. Consider experimenting with recirculation modules that focus on specific topic areas (i.e. Politics compared to News), and audit your existing CTA’s (calls to action) for newsletter sign-up opportunities.’s Recirculation Rate feature can help you track and improve recirculation performance.

3: Frameworks and assessing what to spend more and less time on 

The most-read types of stories across sections were focused on accountability (live updates and breaking news), context (primers and profiles), and news local readers can’t find anywhere else (enterprise, features on community members). The areas where your newsroom already invests the most time and stories in (News, Business, Politics) are also the ones that perform the best among your readers, indicating there’s strong alignment between what your readers expect from you and what you deliver to them. But there were areas that stood out to spend less time on, or at least rethink, that seemed to be tied to your print operations, like Death Notices, and the amount of wire content on site, as well as publication timing.  

  • For coverage questions, assess goals, resources, reader value: There are multiple frameworks to help decide what to stop doing, and a simple one we recommend is mapping out goals versus time spent versus reader value. You can see how this framework plays out in the following sections: recommendations regarding wire content and Revisiting what to spend less time on, where we make recommendations on how to assess goals for wire content as well as ideas to boost articles that struggled to find an audience. Consider embarking on audience listening efforts, like reader surveys, to supplement these inquiries. 
  • Assess operational habits borne from print publication that could be restricting digital growth: We recommend revisiting newsroom workflows attached to the print publication cycle, like when stories are published to the site, and assessing if they can be adjusted or changed to address your online readers’ behaviors and expectations. Based on our analysis, we think there is room to experiment for publishing some stories to align with promotion and curation strategies as opposed to when the story will be published in print. See publish time analysis
    • Why this matters: The lens we used to look at what you might want to spend less time on was primarily through traffic, but there are other factors that were obscured to us, like the initial goals for decisions (wire content) or if a section is important for your mission (like Death Notices). However, this is the moment to identify what parts of your strategy are built from print operations that are unduly impacting your digital presence. 

I. Monitoring funnel growth

Following a swell of pandemic traffic, monthly users now averages ~3M in 2023

In a review of traffic patterns since 2018, Portland Press Herald’s audience has grown and shrunken in similar patterns to many newsrooms — a marked increase in readership driven by the pandemic (2020-2021), followed by a dropoff in 2022. Portland Press Herald’s monthly users averages to ~3M in 2023 (January to November), a decrease from 2018-2021 averages, which ranged between 3.5-4M users per month. 

In 2023, readers are steadily consuming more stories

Looking more closely at January to November 2023, the highest trafficked-periods were August (4M users) and October (3.5M users). 

August was driven by two stories relating to neighborhood disputes over private/public access, Cornish road story and Popham Beach access, while October was driven by Lewiston shooting coverage.

Press Herald’s monthly pageviews during January to November 2023 averaged 13.5M pageviews. 

Though October had less users than August, October had higher pageviews, indicating that each reader read more on average — expected behavior during breaking news periods. 

Logged-in readers have grown

While overall traffic hasn’t rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, the number of logged-in readers has grown over the past 3 years. Logged-in readers average around 145K users per month in 2023 (January to November), comprising just under 5% of Press Herald’s overall audience (users). On a monthly basis, logged-in readers make up around 27% of pageviews, consuming at a much higher rate compared to the general readership.

Recommendations and takeaways

The sustained growth and retention of logged-in readers is a positive sign that more and more people recognize the value and importance of supporting the Portland Press Herald (assuming that most of these readers are subscribers). To track progress in growing audience and retaining loyal readers, we recommend the following: 

  • Define your funnel: Your metrics reporting at a high level should align with the touchpoints and opportunities your readers have to deepen their engagement and relationship with the Portland Press Herald. What are some of the behaviors or actions readers take before becoming a subscriber that indicate a desire for increased engagement? Some examples of this could include signing up for a newsletter, commenting on a story, etc. Whatever these tiers look like, ensure that you’re tracking that as part of this process (i.e. if newsletter signups is the intermediary tier, you could track overall list size each month). Using’s Linear Conversions, you can see which content helped moved readers towards specific conversion moments, such as subscriptions. 
  • Implement regular metrics reporting on funnel progress: Given the past few years of traffic stagnation across your general audience compared to growth in your logged-in user/subscriber base, it’s imperative to establish a monthly or quarterly analysis process that will help you monitor growth and engagement. This can take many forms  — a monthly meeting or a monthly emailed report — with the goal to ensure that your leadership and editors understand the pulse of how readers are engaging with your newsroom. Continue to monitor your monthly users and your average logged-in reader count. Reports can be scheduled to occur on a regular basis, and also track progress for chosen objections over time
  • Start strategizing on audience segments to help you better understand your most engaged readers. This is the opportunity to begin leveraging Parsely’s Audience Segmentation feature set that could help you better understand and segment out logged-in readers by behaviors like engagement rate (how many times they visit the site) or actions they take. As you grow your subscriber base, you’ll want to understand the variations of engagement within this high value group, as well as identify lower-engagement logged-in readers to monitor churn. 

II. Meeting readers where they are 

Portland Press Herald audiences come to the site and stories primarily from Google Search, directly to the site, or via email/newsletters. Their reading behaviors match more closely with typical search patterns (which peak in mid-morning and roughly align with workday hours) and when newsletters are sent than when stories are published to the site. 

Where readers are coming from 

Google Search is the largest source of traffic to Portland Press Herald, making up nearly 50% of all pageviews referred to the site for both Press Herald’s general audience and logged-in readers. Direct, the traffic that Google can’t trace, makes up the second-largest source of traffic (21%). 

Direct traffic could include users typing in URLs, access bookmarks, 1:1 messaging or emailing without referral information appended to URLs. Email is the next largest source of traffic, comprising around 12% of pageviews for overall audience and 18% of traffic for logged-in readers. 

Referral and Social channels comprise similar proportions of traffic to the site, with each source making up ~10% of pageviews. The majority of Social traffic is Facebook, as compared to Twitter. Paid ads contribute infinitesimal traffic to Portland Press Herald across Paid Search channels and Display.  

Recommendations and takeaways

The high proportion of Google Search traffic should raise some warning bells; though it’s a promising sign that readers are looking for the stories Portland Press Herald is known for, you should consider what other areas of audience development to invest in. We recommend focusing on strengthening SEO workflows in the newsroom — which can help reporters and editors think reader-first — while also diversifying. Among the top sources of traffic, the biggest opportunity is in email and newsletter — building more strategies here can help deepen engagement with casual readers, and serve as an intermediary step for these visitors to become subscribers. There’s plenty of runway and headroom to explore what this looks like, whether that’s building out a suite of reporter-driven and anchored newsletters, or launching new newsletters focused on big events (one example could be a short-run newsletter for the 2024 election).  

Publish time analysis

Another aspect of meeting readers where they are is seeking opportunities to align when readers are looking for news and stories with the right coverage. Part of this is refining audience strategies, as noted above — ensuring, for example, that stories that are anticipated to reach a search-seeking readers are well-optimized to do so — and another is refining internal workflows for promotion and curation for newsletters, homepage and social channels. In a review of traffic and publish timing, we recommend aligning your publish times for stories more closely to audience, promotion and curation strategies, as opposed to when stories appear in print (the current norm).  

If publish time mattered significantly for when readers consumed stories, we would expect to see more alignment between when stories are published on a given day or week and when readers are consuming or visiting the Portland Press Herald. However, across the board we saw that traffic patterns aligned more closely with search behavior and newsletter promotion than when stories were published. 

In January to November 2023, peak traffic days for the site were typically mid-week (Tuesday through Thursday), matching when the majority of stories are published on weekdays. 

Most stories are published on Sunday — which is the stronger weekend day by traffic, but paces behind the weekdays. 

On an hourly basis, traffic is highest in the morning (5 am – 10 am ET), aligning with two readership patterns; when the morning newsletter is published, and when most readers are coming in from Google Search. In terms of publication schedule, most Press Herald stories are published 3-4 am or 3-5 pm in the afternoon. 

Recommendations and takeaways

Considering the amount of Press Herald’s search traffic, we recommend publishing promptly any stories that are anticipated to reach search-seeking audiences. In events like breaking news or ongoing live updates, publishing early and updating often is important for readers aiming to keep up with a rapid pace of news. Readers will want to know that they can come back to your publication during a breaking news moment, so getting the story up quickly and setting up reader expectations for where they can check for continuing updates can be invaluable for developing trust with your audiences. (See coverage strategies). It is also important to consider publication times for stories anticipated to reach a majority search audience — such as restaurant reviews for newly opened establishments, Oscars coverage or sports previews.

Consider divorcing the online publication timeline for enterprise and narrative pieces from their print timeline. For these stories, readership hinges more closely on the piece’s promotion or curation plan, rather than when it’s published to the site. It’s worth experimenting publishing these stories based on audience strategies (i.e. the plans that your team strategizes for how these stories will appear online and on your platforms) and divorcing that from the print timeline (i.e. don’t save them for a certain date to align with when they’ll appear in print). 

  • For these stories, unless there’s a planned news peg, prioritize what will help your audience team with promotion and planning when it comes to publication time. 

III. Top topic areas 

To better understand the top coverage areas and topics resonating with Portland Press Herald audiences, we analyzed performance by section in two different dimensions. 

  • Total and aggregate pageviews: This helps us understand at a high level the topic areas that are receiving high amounts of resources or time, and how readers respond to those editorial pillars. We break this down further by separating out wire coverage from staff or locally-written stories, and by readership segment to see if there are notable differences. 
  • Average performance per story: We also analyze sections by average performance per story published in that coverage area (average performance = total pageviews/number of stories published), which can help us understand which areas are resonating the most with readers on an individual basis. This helps us understand potential topic areas to invest more resources in and advise where you might want to publish more stories — or conversely, spend less time. 

For both of these dimensions, we looked at both the section level (information from and the article category level (information from Google Analytics). For most of these charts, we excluded non-wire content to better hone in on the performance for staff and locally-written pieces. 

Top areas by aggregate pageviews 

In general, the sections with the higher amounts of stories published are also the highest trafficked overall, with the notable exception of Death Notices, a high volume section with lower pageviews compared to other areas. 

News carries the bulk of traffic and the bulk of stories published, followed by Business, Obituaries, and Sports. 

When excluding wire content — thus only looking at staff-written or locally-written coverage (including from other Maine papers) — breakdown of top section areas is similar. 

However, without wire stories Business is 3rd ranked in total pageviews. 

Top sections (excluding wire stories) for logged-in readers bear a similar breakdown, with News being the most popular section for these readers by aggregate pageviews, followed by Business, Obituaries and Sports.

The top areas of coverage by article category (from Google Analytics) align with areas with the highest amount of stories. Local and state coverage has highest total pageviews, followed by obituaries, business, cops & courts, and varsity maine. 

For logged-in readers, the top article categories are in similar order. Note the high amount of stories published in Death Notices and the corresponding amount of traffic. 

Top areas by average story performance

Portland Press Herald story average

Across all stories published in 2023 between January and November, a typical staff-written Portland Press Herald story receives 2,900 pageviews from all readers, and 972 pageviews from logged-in readers. The staff-written story average outperforms the average performance of wire stories in every section and category. When combining both staff and wire stories, a Portland Press Herald story’s average performance is 2,262 pageviews. 

For the purposes of this analysis — and as a general recommendation — we will focus on staff and locally-written stories and their average performance for comparison. We recommend that you track the average pageviews per story for staff + locally-written stories year-over-year as a way to monitor overall growth. 

Top sections and categories by average story performance

By section, Politics stories (44 stories) are the highest-performing per post, followed by Business (813 stories) and News (3,362 stories). This is the same order for logged-in readers. In reading this graph, take note of the sections that approach the upper half of this chart — these are areas with higher average pageviews per story compared to their peers, especially notable for some of the larger sections by volume (like News and Obituaries). Pay note to some of the areas with high volume and low averages, like Death Notices, in comparison. Of these topic areas, there are a few that stand out as opportunity areas to propel, namely Politics, Food, and Business coverage. Section analytics can be accessed in real-time via’s Benchmarks feature.

By article category, guides (4 stories) and Bill Nemitz columns (3 stories) performed the strongest on average, though these areas had comparatively fewer stories than other high-performing average article categories. Weather (Maine Forecast), election stories, and restaurant reviews were other areas of coverage that had strong average performance. This was a similar breakdown for logged-in readers, though a slightly different order (Bill Nemitz, Weather, election, guides). By contrast, the categories with the lowest average pageviews per post (especially compared to high volume) were obituaries. Death notices receive about 125 pageviews on average. 

** These graphs show the top 30 article categories by average performance, due to the high number of categories across the Press Herald site. 

IV. Building strategies to propel your coverage strengths

In order to better understand Press Herald’s coverage, we read the top staff and locally-written articles from select topic areas that resonated the most with general readers — in total, reading 200 stories across 8 coverage areas. From these stories, we attempted to understand some of the defining characteristics of these stories among readers and logged-in readers to make recommendations for workflows or strategies to consider by article type. We did not read wire stories as part of this exercise. 

We picked the following topic areas to read stories from: 

  • Politics, the highest section by average pageviews
  • News – Local and State, largest section and article category by volume
  • News – Maine Forecast, one of the highest-performing categories by average pageviews
  • News – Cops and Courts, one of the largest article categories by volume
  • Business, section with high average pageviews
  • Sports
  • Features
  • Food 

In reading some of the top-performing stories for readers and logged-in users, a few insights and recommendations emerged. Across sections and topic areas, we noted that the top stories for all readers and the top stories for logged-in readers had significant overlap. These recommendations are meant to help deepen engagement with both groups based on the trends we’re seeing. 

Recommendations and takeaways

Accountability – Live coverage and breaking news

Live coverage and breaking news were some of the top-performing types of articles within Politics and News. Live updates on the Lewistown shooting and the 2023 election were driven largely by internal and direct traffic, indicating that most readers found these stories via the homepage or elsewhere on the site. Search made up a notable percentage of traffic, but there are some opportunities to keep in mind for how to help readers searching for these important updates. Given these trends, we have a few suggestions to help improve reader experience — ways to make it easier for readers to get a sense of where to go for live updates and also what to read if they want more context. 

  • During election coverage, help readers understand the value of differing live stories to help them understand the best source for updating news. These two live updating files for the 2023 performed strongly for the Politics section, but there were two items that popped out.
  • Firstly, these stories have similar headlines and it’s not immediately clear to a reader which one may have more context or the analysis they come to expect from Press Herald reporters. For these types of situations where you plan on promoting two live updating pages, make clear their distinction in the headline and URLs, and consider targeting them more clearly to different search queries (“Election results” vs “Election updates and analysis”) 
  • Secondly, these two live pages don’t internally link to each other — for readers who happened on the updating live results page, adding a link so they can read live analysis and news updates would help them encounter and engage with more coverage. 
  • Consider making it more visually prominent when a story is updated and providing a “key updates” section for breaking news files that span multiple days. The Lewiston shooting live updates file provided crucial updates to the community over multiple days, but for readers who may have tuned in on later days, it could be more difficult to get a sense of what is known and what is new about the unfolding situation.
    • Consider timestamps that provide the day and hour if you aim to maintain a live file over multiple days. 
    • Providing a short curation of links with stories that provide greater context at the top of the article can provide an opportunity for readers who want to know more about a specific aspect of the news, such as community reactions. 

Context – Primers and profiles

Across politics and news coverage, primers and profiles were some of the top stories, diving deep into what readers need to know about ballot initiatives and candidates. These provide excellent context for readers, and there’s room to experiment here looking ahead to the 2024 election. 

  • Consider primers that curate or combine multiple initiatives. Of the primers relating to the various ballot questions, the one that consolidated information on Questions 5 through 8 performed the best. Readers might be more interested in a one-stop primer that provides information on all these ballot questions rather than the breakout pieces narrowed on a specific initiative. Questions 5 through 8: What you need to know about the proposed constitutional amendments
    • If you stick with a series, link to the other pieces in the series in the top graf to make it easy for readers to peruse. 
  • Consider the off-platform potential for profiles and curation: The profiles of the Portland mayoral candidates also performed well for Politics, another example of readers gravitating towards one-stop links that let them peruse and choose from a bevy of stories relating to an issue or seat they care about. These might be good pieces to elevate or showcase on other platforms, like newsletter/email series or Facebook. 

Roundups (Food and Guides) + Interactives 

Within Food and Guides, roundups and curations of topics like the best restaurants in Portland performed very strongly. Paired with beautiful staff photos, these stories are a delight to read and have evergreen potential. Interactive stories that help readers delve deeper into questions, like seeing how a neighborhood voted on a referendum, are fun pieces that might also do well in other channels. Identifying top evergreen content can be done via Dash Publish date filters or via their Evergreen Report.

  • Think about the promotion potential for some evergreen pieces throughout the year. Stories like Best 75 places to eat and drink in Greater Portland, Top 10 places to eat and drink in Greater Portland, and top pizza restaurants are great to promote on the homepage or on Facebook throughout the year. Consider repushing these stories every season of the year, or timing pieces like Pick your favorite pizza in Greater Portland with silly days like National Pizza Day.
    • Though there’s not much traffic opportunity, consider promoting and curating more food-related images and pictures on the Portland Press Herald Instagram. Instagram is increasingly where younger readers turn to for their news, so highlighting these stories could be a good way to increase brand awareness among a younger crowd. 
  • Consider repackaging some of these evergreen pieces into packages for tourists or visiting readers, such as “Your essential weekend guide to Portland, Maine” — there could be passive traffic opportunities and ad income for these.
  • Stories like Dine Out Maine: A restaurant for every situation and occasion which help readers pick a restaurant for any occasion for any guest could be re-promoted during community holidays and events, like Valentine’s Day, high school graduations, etc. 
  • Interactives like See how your town voted on the Pine Tree Power referendum would be great to promote on channels like newsletters or linked prominently on their corresponding news stories. 

Search and headlines 

Across the board, there’s ample opportunity to improve headlines for search. Explore if your CMS allows you the ability to have two separate headline fields, one that populates the article page and the other that populates for search (WordPress and Methode have these as options) as it will unlock more traffic potential for stories that could resonate with readers on the site or via search queries.  

  • Food and Business stories stand out as topic areas that would benefit from additional search optimization. Many of these stories focus on specific restaurants or community members that you might expect your audience to have higher awareness of — but many of them don’t include those notable names in the headline.
    • For example, Portland orders restaurant to remove antique doors over ‘false sense of history’ focuses on the struggles Papi restaurant faced with city regulations on its decorations, but does not mention Papi in the headline. If there was a search headline opportunity, one could retain this headline and have another headline more focused on search, such as “Papi restaurant faces challenges from city over antique doors” 

Personalities (Jason for Maine Forecast, Andrew Ross for Dine Out Maine) 

Some sections were driven by excellent columnists or reporters who injected more personality and perspective into these pieces, specifically Jason Nappi for Maine Forecast and Andrew Ross for Dine Out Maine. In reading through some of these stories and reader’s responses in the comment sections, there could be potential in building more opportunities to showcase these reporters/writers’ personalities. Their articles serve as engaging touchpoints for readers; consistently formatted with a signature voice. 

  • It could be worth exploring authored newsletters from these reporters. The Food newsletter, for example, appears to be RSS driven — could this be an opportunity to have Andrew or another food writer have a more authored write through for that product? 
  • Think about other interactive pieces or projects these reporters could do, like FAQs or AMAs on site, that could be a subscriber benefit. For example, an AMA or live chat with Andrew Ross during Maine Restaurant Week to share his recommendations on where to go would be a fun and engaging way to deepen his relationship with his community of readers. 

Wire stories

Wire stories comprise nearly a third (29%) of stories published to Portland Press Herald from Jan-November 2023, but make up just 9% of pageviews in that same time range. 

  • The highest-performing type of wire stories are those published in Politics (predominantly election-related articles), followed by News. Though these articles perform best on average, collectively wire stories make up a small percentage of traffic to these coverage areas (8% of pageviews to Politics, 13% to News overall). 
  • Some areas are heavily reliant on wire content for both number of stories and traffic. By article category, Nation & World stands out as the heavily reliant on wire content — wire stories make up the majority of articles and comprise most of the traffic to that coverage area. 
  • The lowest-performing type of wire stories are those published in Sports by average pageviews per story. Sports wire stories make up 40% of total Sports articles, though only making up 10% of traffic to the section. 

Recommendations and takeaways 

Our recommendations on how to interpret this data depends on your newsroom’s goals when it comes to wire content. There are a few frameworks to evaluate the use and effectiveness of wire coverage, and how it stands in comparison to staff or locally-written stories. 

  • Traffic reasons: If there’s a question of whether or not to continue paying for wire content for traffic reasons, wire coverage doesn’t contribute a huge percentage of traffic. However, wire stories provide more traffic and likely more value to readers compared to investing in paid search or display ads. 
  • Internal competition: If there’s a concern that wire content might compete with or cannibalize traffic from staff and locally-written stories, it does not currently appear that this is a major concern. The few areas where wire content buoys the majority of a section (Nation & World) are also the areas where there isn’t a significant amount of staff-written articles. However, this is worth keeping in mind and monitoring for wire Politics/Election coverage heading into 2024. With the strong performance of staff and locally written election coverage (see average story performance), there could be a chance that wire coverage competes with staff coverage when it comes to search rankings. 
  • Areas to cut back from: If considering areas to cut back on wire coverage, we would recommend areas where there wire stories make a notable proportion of stories published with minimal traffic contributed — these are areas where you could assume that readers prefer staff and locally-written stories over wire. Such areas could include Business, Food, Life and Culture, or Sports. It’s also worth revisiting areas where wire coverage makes up a minimal amount of stories published and minimal traffic, like Obituaries or Local and State. 

V. Revisiting what to spend less time on 

We also reviewed the bottom third of stories by traffic to learn more about the topics that struggle to find readers. To do this, we analyzed stories that received fewer than 250 pageviews from January to November 2023, which amounts to 28% of total stories published by staff and local writers (omitting wire). 

Recommendations and takeaways

  • For other Maine media, what is the goal or hope for readers to recirculate to these stories? A larger proportion of shared Maine content falls below 250 pageviews, which is an indicator that readers might not be recirculating through the site to these other areas as much as hoped. If this is an area of priority, it is worth considering how to make it easier within the site to find these other brands, or choosing a few to highlight specifically on the homepage. 
  • Are there areas that need a rebrand for readers? Some of the areas with a high percentage of stories below 250 pageviews with higher volume of stories could be refocused or rebranded. The Home stories in this percentile were design and maintenance stories. Consider a section or branding on the homepage header like “Home and Garden” that is broader and more appealing to readers, and polling audiences on what sorts of topics or articles they would prefer to see in this section. 
  • Local vs state vs national balance: In some topic areas, it’s clear staff-written stories at the state or national interest level don’t perform as well, sports being one example. A higher proportion of stories focused on college sports as well as big state teams are in this percentile, as opposed to the minimal percentage of Varsity Maine (high school sports) that are presented here. If this is an ongoing conversation on how to best allocate sports reporters’ time, it is worth monitoring this performance moving forward.  

Death notices receive little traffic, which we’ve seen across the average performance analysis. This is an area with high volume with minimal traffic gain. If this area requires notable staff time and energy, it’s worth considering if these need to be published to the web (providing that there isn’t a legal reason as to why these need to be published online). Obituaries provide more value to readers by providing a chance for families and loved ones to read about those that passed, compared to these death notices. To be clear, it’s not detrimental to have death notices remain as is, but be aware of how these posts affect average traffic moving forward. 


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