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Website serves a diverse audience

People have been turning to The Times for news and information since 1864.

Although I wasn’t around for the start of publication, I was around when we started the website MariettaTimes.com.

When we started the site in 2000, we were not sure where it would take us. The whole idea of getting your news via your computer was fairly new. Many smaller news outlets did not even have sites. Up to that point we had not gotten very far in the digital delivery of news.

We did have a fairly crude fax edition that we sent out to around 50 people every morning. The fax machine was next to my desk and I would hear it sending them out one by one.

The Times site actually started out as an experiment with two other papers. We sent digital pages away to a production center in Washington that produced the sites each day for the three papers before eventually growing to do around 20.

We were thrilled the first month when we had 19,000 page views on the site. After all, we had nothing to compare it to. After that we switched to the first system where we had direct control over when and what stories posted. This would be the first of around 7 generations of systems that we have used to update the website each day. Changes occur not only because of the improvement of technology, but also changes in reader habits.

The current version of the site came into use because it allowed the site to be cloud based, meaning it is more stable than it would be if it was on one server somewhere, but also mobile friendly. Our site actually looks different depending on what device you are using. Web users have migrated toward using mobile devices and it is important that all websites scale properly depending on the size of the screen.

MariettaTimes.com has now been online for 21 years and reaches people from all over the world.

Let’s take a look at a recent 30-day period, in this case the 30 days prior to Nov. 18.

More than 100,000 people visited the site during 224,923 sessions. They viewed 737,957 pages.

That information is the overview of the site, but what I find really interesting is the details of who the people are.

Our visitors came from 138 countries during the month, which is 71% of the planet. This includes visitors from Uzbekistan, Montserrat and Burkina Faso, although 94% of the traffic is from the United States and more than 60% is from our own area.

Accessing the site on a mobile device is the most popular way now. There was no mobile when we started, there were not any tablets either, which is the device of choice for around 5% of people.

Apple devices are by far the most common devices that the site is accessed on. Around 20 different versions of iPads and iPhones are used to access the site.

People access the site through a variety of different browsers. Chrome is the post popular, with 35% of people using it. Safari, which is the default browser on the iPhone, comes in a close second at 34%. Less than one percent of people use Explorer, that at one time, led all others.

There are also some obscure browsers such as Puffin and SeaMonkey.

I’ve always been intrigued by what people read when they come to newspapers’ sites. By far, the most popular destination on the website is the obituaries. People not only read the first page of the obits, but they will go back page after page to see who has passed away.

The popularity of actual news stories normally trends toward the bad news. Murders, arrests, fires and drug busts will nearly always be read more than the stories about good people doing good things.

Sometimes you will get a story that gets readers far outside the area attracted to it. The story about the Marietta mom getting arrested for refusing to put on a mask at a football game is one example. The September 2020 story was read 153,890 times online. Let that sink in, that is more than 10 times the population of Marietta.

A newspaper is more than a building, or a printed edition, it is really an institution dedicated to providing news and information to the community that it serves.

Institutions that evolve can continue to serve the community. We have been evolving since we started, long before I was part of the staff, and we will continue to do so well into the future.

Art Smith is online manager of The Times and can be reached at

asmith@mariettatimes.com

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