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Scott SwaffordVoter guides may be a key way to attract readers and election-related advertising dollars to local election coverage, said Scott Swafford, senior city editor of the Columbia Missourian.

The Missourian’s November 2014 election guide, which was published online one week before the election, garnered three times more page views than any single election article during the campaign season, according to the newspaper’s Web analytics. The analytics showed that some readers were spending as many as five minutes on the election guide webpage.

The package included information on the voting process, an aggregation of election coverage to date (with links to articles), and summaries of each political race and issue on the ballot.

Swafford said the success of the Missourian’s guide is an indicator that readers interested in election news “spend significant time with voter guides when they're trying to make decisions about how to cast their ballot.” He said advertising representatives need to pay attention to this type of behavior.

“If I'm trying to sell ads, that's a message I can use to convince candidates and campaign committees that they should have a presence in those guides, both in print and online," he said.

Voters guide serves as last-minute source

The guide attracted attention as soon as it was published, but almost half of the total page views came on Election Day, according to the analytics.

“There are a lot of folks out there who are interested in election news, but they’re just not going to pay attention until the election is right on top of them,” said Swafford.

The analytics analysis was part of Swafford’s research from his 2013-2014 Reynolds fellowship, which was designed to help community newspapers improve their local election coverage. Swafford shared these insights with attendees of the recent Walter B. Potter Conference on innovation in community newspapers hosted by the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute.

Jennifer Nelson  
   
Senior Information Specialist


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