Newspaper Web sites are giving newspaper editors a clearer picture of which stories grab and captivate readers.
In the bygone days of “print only” an editor could make an educated guess based on a variety of factors — the buzz around the newsroom, telephone calls from readers, gut instinct — but none offered the precision and accuracy we now have.
In this new digital world of journalism, editors know how many people have looked at each story on the newspaper Web site and for how long. We even know the time of day a story was read and what impact the story might have had on the reader.
Readers of the print edition have long clipped stories they valued and saved them. In the digital age, they save and share them via e-mail.
This past week, the newsroom received a list of the most e-mailed stories of 2009.
At the top was the recent news story about the 10 students being suspended for staging “Kick-a-Jew Day” at North Naples Middle School. More than 1,000 readers took time to e-mail the story to others.
Second on the list was the story that the Bonita Bay Group was ready to close its golf courses and clubhouses on Sept. 30 if the facilities weren’t sold by that date.
No. 3 on the list was a photo and story sent to us by a reader. It was so captivating that nearly 500 users forwarded it on to others.
The headline read: “Huge Gator fan gets experience of a lifetime as he meets his hero.” The photograph was as unforgettable as they come. It showed University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow pushing 7-year-old Boomer Hornbeck in a wheelchair around Florida Field prior to the season-opening football game. Accompanying the photo was a moving story written by Bud Hornbeck, Boomer’s grandfather. He told how Boomer, who has cerebral palsy, was befriended by Florida Coach Urban Meyer during a Naples speaking engagement last spring and then invited to attend the Gators’ first home game.
That’s where Boomer met Tebow and an unforgettable photograph was made.
Rounding out the Top 10 e-mailed news events of the year are:
4. The opening of The Silverspot, a luxury movie theater at the Mercato in North Naples.
5. The video, photo gallery and story about a dolphin that jumped into a Marco Island woman’s boat.
6. The surprise federal shutdown of Orion Bank and the removal of CEO Jerry Williams.
7. The follow-up story on the closing of Naples-based Orion Bank.
8. The announcement that Bonita Bay’s CEO had stepped down.
9. The closing of TwinEagles golf club.
10. A story headlined: “Best Buy founder blasts Bonita Bay Group in letter.”
The metrics sent to the newsroom this past week also kept track of the various reader polls that were posted during the course of the year.
The poll that got the most response on naplesnews.com was:
“What should the Naples vs. Barron Collier high-school football game be named?”
That was followed by “Best burgers? Here’s some of the top choices, but which one do you like?”
We also have numbers on the stories that received the most reader comments in 2009.
Heading the list was “Free Bibles cannot be passed out to Collier County high schoolers.”
A total of 807 comments were posted below that story after it was published.
In second place was the story about a 19-year-old burglar shot and killed in North Naples. It solicited 691 individual comments.
The suspension of the middle-school students for their part in “Kick-a-Jew Day” was third.
The rest of the Top 10 follows:
4. Naples holds anti-Obama tea party.
5. A follow-up story to the deadly burglary.
6. Decision by Collier and Lee County schools not to show the Obama speech to students.
7. The Letters to the Editor column of Nov. 7.
8. The arrest of a high-school band director, charged with having sex with a student.
9. A follow-up story to the band director arrest.
10. A report on how many Hispanics face discrimination and racial profiling.
We also keep track of the comments that violate our user policy and thus are removed from beneath stories.
One story topped all others in 2009. It was about a Halloween arrest story. A Naples man, dressed as Pamela Anderson, was accused of pulling a fire alarm at a costume party.
A review of the comments resulted in the removal of 47 — a new record.
Phil Lewis is editor of the Daily News. His e-mail address is email@example.com