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California Local Is Making an Impact

A review of our web traffic metrics is positive, showing a lot of growth in visitors to our site. But we’re happiest when we send people elsewhere. We explain.

PUBLISHED DEC 4, 2022 5:38 P.M.
Don’t be a dummy; go out there and citizen responsibly.

Don’t be a dummy; go out there and citizen responsibly.   Macrovector/Shutterstock   Standard

Here at California Local, we have a slogan that is an apt description of our brand of community journalism: We make it easy to citizen!

As you can see, we believe “citizen” is a verb and should be used to describe an action. Thus, in our editorial products, we focus on explaining how elements in the community work, and in our directory products—our listings of local government entities and community groups—we work to educate our members about local civic resources in order to help them take action by connecting with those resources. This is spelled out in another slogan right there at the top of this page: “Discover. Connect. Act.”

Since launching in August of 2021, our project has grown organically, and now our team is looking closely at our metrics and evaluating our mission, strategy and products before entering the new year.

I love data and over the last few weeks have been doing a deep dive into our stats and analytics. Typically, in an online publication, one wants to measure uptake and engagement: how many hits on what pages for how long—that kind of stuff. Measuring this data is very straightforward, and we’re doing well. Some of our articles have been viewed tens of thousands of times, and some of our pages, such as the traffic pages, have a lot of returning visitors.

In the weeks preceding the election, visits to our site almost doubled. According to measurements of our inbound traffic, thousands of people are finding us educational and useful.

But it’s the measurement of our outbound traffic, the clicks on the thousands of links in our directories and articles, which is more interesting to me because it’s an indicator of our impact.

Internally, we record a very minimal set of outbound-link click information, such as the time/date of the click, the internal page on our server, and the external url to which the user’s browser was sent when clicked.

It’s hard to describe the feeling I get when I look at the click report. In the past month alone, we’ve connected people to thousands of community groups and government entities, especially elected representatives. It’s gratifying to see the many clicks on our links to elected officials’ email addresses, indicating an email was sent by someone who found something useful on our site.

California Local is a lot of work to produce and maintain. We’ve investing years of our lives and significant resources in the project partly because we believe that someday we’ll make money. In the meantime, the numbers are looking good, and knowing we’re making a difference feels good.

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