Jackson Free Press Website Re-Boot Nets Increased Traffic

Have you visited the Jackson Free Press’ website recently?

After over six months of behind-the-scenes effort, the JFP pulled the trigger on their new website in July 2012, built on a new content management system designed for daily newspapers, Ellington CMS. The move has already proven to be a welcome technological leap from the blogging software (ExpressionEngine and pMachine) that the JFP has used since its Web and print launch almost ten years ago.

The relaunch has improved the quality of the JFP’s search results, the layout and responsiveness of story pages, and it’s given JFP editors improved ability to post photo galleries, videos, audio and documents in support of their news and entertainment reporting.

Discoverability in search engines has improved, and JFP staffers are pleased to see their stories in Google and Yahoo! news feeds within minutes of posting.

“Moving our archives, old comments and events/music listings to the new site has a been a massive undertaking, but I think we’re back on top with the best news site in Mississippi,” said Todd Stauffer, publisher of the Jackson Free Press.

The revamped site features special sections for local, regional and national news and improved coverage for Sports and Life+Style topics.

In July, the Jackson Free Press announced its membership in the Associated Press, and introduced its “From the Wires” section to the site. The move was designed to bolster state and national coverage of issues relevant to JFP readers in the same month that Jackson’s Gannett-owned daily, the Clarion-Ledger, goes behind a paywall for the first time.

“We’re in this business because we want informed citizens,” said Stauffer. “We don’t think Jackson readers should have to eat up ‘paywall credits’ reading AP stories. So we’re going to pull down the interesting ones and offer them for free. We also like the idea of working with local AP reporters and photographers in Mississippi on state and legislative coverage for our readers.”

In the first full month of operation, JFP saw a better than 50% increase in page views over the previous quarter’s average month, including increases in traffic at both the regular website and the new mobile-enabled site for smartphones available at the thumb-friendly jfp.ms.

A significant portion of the increase can be attributed to reader engagement, as the revamped site hasn’t yet been extensively marketed to new users, and pages-per-user metric has improved over the previous site.

That said, some of the traffic boost has come thanks to the increased visibility of viral stories in search engines, including coverage of attempts to close Mississippi’s only abortion clinic, a problematic voter ID law in Mississippi, a multi-state drug bust, and recent constitutional challenges to misguided “baggy pants” ordinances in Hinds County.

The JFP plans to introduce more features over the next few months, including some tablet-specific layouts, improved music listings, a local band database and more extensive use of video, audio clips and podcasting.

– Todd Stauffer

Publisher, Jackson Free Press and BOOM Jackson magazine