Here’s what readers like — and what we deliver

Jan 05, 2017

The newsroom staff regularly updates The Mountaineer website and Facebook page, which is now followed by more than 16,000 individuals.

Through monitoring both, we now know exactly the type of stories that draw in readers. Here’s what we’ve learned.

1) Crime stories or traffic accidents are hugely popular, even if the accident is just a fender-bender. We’ve regularly had a Facebook reach of up to 60,000 and sometimes higher, particularly when it’s a crime story that is shared throughout the region.

2) Food and restaurant stories are a close second. All the stories we ran leading up to the opening of Chick-fil-A were wildly popular, fetching up to 29,000 page views each.

3) Local government stories, ones about tax rates, how your tax money is being spent, who is seeking elective office and why they want the job, get much less attention.

4) Events and news about significant developments within the county are somewhere in between.

5) Stories about animals are extremely popular and if it involves animal abuse, the readership is about as much as some of the more routine crime stories.

Regular Mountaineer readers understand that about 90 percent of the news we provide is uplifting and positive news about this community — the kind of stories that, generically, people say they want to read. We have proof this is not true. If all we cared about was maximizing readership, we would monitor the police scanner 24/7 and have reporters working around the clock providing photos and stories about the misfortunes of others.

However, that is not what community newspapers are all about. We offer the first draft of history by reporting significant developments as they unfold. Decades from now when people want to understand the events leading up to such things as a revised approach to economic development within the county, meeting housing needs or understanding the circumstances behind a fire that destroyed an historic building, they will be able to find details in the county newspaper of record.

It is also our responsibility to deliver stories that offer insight into the people of all ages who live here — what they enjoy, where they excel, how they are providing service to others, what they are learning and where their passions lie. Feature stories about fascinating individuals, groups united around a common goal to make this a little better place or students who are already making a difference are ones we love to provide. They show that Haywood County is a wonderful, compassionate and unique place where people of all kinds are sharing a common journey.

We love hearing from readers, who often comment on stories they have found online. It is a way to locate people who can provide a unique perspective on a story, and we often use Facebook  to put out a call to readers who can weigh in on an issue we are covering.

What we do find disturbing, however, is the downright malicious tone used in some of the comments, particularly on Facebook. It is as if making a nasty comment through the use of a keyboard frees an individual from any personal responsibility to not unnecessarily hurt the feelings of another.

For instance, the story about an 85-year-old woman whose vehicle malfunctioned, causing her to hit a sign at the hospital entrance fetched comments suggesting she was texting or applying “war paint” to using the forum as a way to criticize the hospital for its charges and the newspaper for having it in late.

We’ve also found many very willing to comment on a story they haven’t read, which is very clear by the comments they make or questions they ask.

Some object to our policy of charging to read the story and say they would be willing to pay a quarter but not more. The daily cost to subscribe to The Mountaineer and have around the clock access plus the hard copy delivered is just 18 cents a day. To stay current on community events and be able to meaningfully participate in the vibrant discussions about this county and its future, that’s a bargain!