Davies: 2023

By Jake Davies - West Carleton Online

Well, Google, you magnificent bastard, you’ve done it to me again. As we yell at our goalies in oldtimers hockey, ‘you had one job!’

Column header for publisher Jake Davies' column indubitably.

Believe it or not, I look forward to writing the year in review column. Sure, we’re more than two weeks in to the New Year, but I find it endlessly fascinating to look back at the past year, find out who read what, and then try to guess why. Maybe find some stories I have completely forgotten about. Or look at older stories with a new view as time changes the context. To me it’s interesting. But it was tough to get to.

Today (Jan. 16) I battled through a CT scan, trips to two different hospitals, an acute diverticulitis prognosis, and a drive through rush hour traffic from downtown Ottawa to the suburbs of Kanata in terrible driving conditions, with the thought of what Google Analytics will tell me about last year’s West Carleton Online coverage with the thought of this column the only thing to get me through the day.

But Google Analytics, our stat tracker, got the last laugh. I knew something was amiss when the pageview count for 2023 topped out at 106,350. My first thought was the Online News Act had a bigger impact on our readership than I thought. But further research uncovered the culprit. Last year, Google Analytics upgraded to GA4 (I don’t know what that means). It came in to effect on June 1, 2023. What it didn’t do, is transfer my old data to the new upgrade.

So, all our data for the first six months of the year has been lost to the Internets. I should put West Carleton Online online resources columnist Richard Longworth on the case. But that’s too much work. So instead, I’m going to half-ass this column like Google Analytics half-assed its data collection. Luckily, you dear readers are used to that. Maybe we’ll make it more of a state-of-the-union column.

But the good news, especially for our advertisers, is even with the dawning of the Online News Act, assuming this guestimate is accurate by just doubling the number, we had more than a quarter-of-a-million pageviews. Which is similar to past years. Not all our readers live in West Carleton, but while I’m already making up statistics like some sort of Rebel News reporter, lets do some math.

According to the City of Ottawa, Ward 5 has an estimated population of 23,680 people divided in to roughly 8,600 households. That means roughly each person in West Carleton, man, woman and child, read 9.5 stories in 2023. Thank you. That stat makes no sense.

It was an interesting year for West Carleton Online. With few resources, bootstrapping every step of the way, despite Facebook, we managed to grow in 2023. But some of that is only due to a supportive community. A goal of mine, right from Day 1, was to add more voices to our editorial department. Usually, you have to pay people to do that. But once again, community members stepped up. We get Letters to the Editor, op-ed pieces and press releases, but in 2023, we got even more.

Already mentioned, columnist Longworth not only writes a fascinating technology column, this year often focusing on the interesting world of artificial intelligence, but he’s added to his repertoire with his Good News Stories – a column with a focus on people doing good in the community for no obvious reason whatsoever other than that’s what they do. And there’s no shortage of those people in West Carleton that fit that bill.

One of our most exciting additions is reporter Nonie Smart. A Dunrobin resident who wanted to take up the challenge of reporting and has been hitting it out of the park since Day 1, taking on challenging assignment such as some of our Battery Energy Storage System coverage, but also providing event coverage, sports coverage, art coverage and business coverage.

We’ve been lucky to have a number of other columnists come and go over the years and I would be remiss if I didn’t thank all of them for their contributions because they bring something very important to our publication – diversity.

I refer back to Longworth’s Good News Story subjects when it comes to why these people do what they do. I don’t know. I guarantee the first words out of my mouth when someone contacts me about volunteering for our publication is, ‘you know you’re volunteering to work at an (allegedly) for-profit business?’

In general, Ottawa Valley media took a big hit in 2023. We lost almost all the remaining community newspapers in the area. A couple I worked for at one point or another over the last 22 years. We are trying to expand our coverage, in tiny increments, to try and fill that void. But we have to do it the bootstrap way. No bank is going to give a small media outlet a loan. We don’t really want a government grant (but of course we kind of do, too). That’s what allows me to call West Carleton Online independent.

But at the same time, we’re a fragile business too. Paragraph number three is all true. It shows what kind of effort it takes to deliver news every single day. A medical emergency, a vehicle emergency, a snow shovelling emergency, day-drinking, those things all can happen at any time, unexpectedly. Part time jobs that pay actual cash-money can get in the way of West Carleton events on occasion.

But our readers expect news every day. That’s what they pay for. With a slightly larger West Carleton Online team in 2023, at least there’s a bit more stability.

And obviously, without our subscribers, we wouldn’t exist. The media landscape has changed – there’s no such thing as a free lunch and the era of ‘free’ community newspapers is dying a slow, painful death. So, thank you subscribers, you have proven to be a loyal, positive and an encouraging bunch and I have met so many new friends as our fifth year in operation winds down. Thank you.

While advertisers sometimes give people a bad taste in their mouth, I obviously love ‘em. They have been a surprising lifeline for West Carleton Online. Our goal in 2018 was to be totally subscriber-powered. We thought that would be an amazing achievement. If all our revenue came from subscribers, well it would be pretty obvious who we worked for. But that was a pipedream. In 2022, almost 50 per cent of our revenue came from advertising and I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case in 2023. More amazing, we don’t have an advertising rep. Almost every ad we sold in 2023 came from a request. Every single ad we’ve sold since 2018 has come from a local business or organization. We think we offer a great marketing strategy that is affordable for the small businesses and nonprofit organizations that make up West Carleton (and let’s not forget the more than 20,000 pageview per month), we appreciate every single one that comes in. Thank you.

Now, let’s take a look at the, sigh, Top Five stories of the last six months of 2023.

Top Five stories of last half of 2023
  1. Carp Fair Drive-in Bingo returns Wednesdays in July (565 pageviews, published June 22, 2023): This story is always well searched on Google across the City of Ottawa. We get calls every year with people thinking we’re the organizers. And quite frankly, we’re also the only media that covers it.
  1. 1818 Farm and Cidery taking shape (464 pageviews, published July 12, 2023): It’s a new business story about a new farm. That’s what we cover in West Carleton.
  1. Stanley Cup coming to Carp (425 pageviews, Aug. 11, 2023): A Kinburn man gets his name etched on the Cup. He’s not a hockey player, but he is a team player. While that story only explains what is about to happen, here’s our coverage of what did happen.
  1. Arnprior Chronicle-Guide among Metroland newspapers to close (350 pageviews, June 19, 2023): We broke this story months before anyone else got a whiff of it. In fact, the next media outlet to mention it was the newspaper chain itself on Sept. 15, 2023 almost three months later.
  1. Constance Bay weekend beach mayhem (339 pageviews, Aug. 8, 2023): Summer long weekends have become cray-cray in the Bay. We watched all the action from The Point Dining Lounge patio.

Next week West Carleton Online will take a look at publisher Jake Davies’ favourite stories.

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One thought on “Davies: 2023

  • January 17, 2024 at 9:10 am

    Hi Jake, thanks for the shout out, but back to you for all of your support. Never too busy it seems to offer up some much needed free advice when needed. I’d also like to thank all of those I have met recently who so kindly have shared their thoughts, experience and sometimes even their space in order to tell me their story. Your time and input is what makes WCO the valuable resource that it is and also bit by bit makes our community a better place. Looking forward to and wishing everyone a best ever 2024. Nonie