East Kingdom Gazette

EK Gazette LogoIn the Fall of 2012, the East Kingdom Gazette was launched. The Gazette is an unofficial online news site for the East Kingdom. I manage the Gazette along with a staff of volunteers. Other kingdoms have asked for information when they were considering starting their own.  Æthelmearc, Ealdormere, the Midrealm, and Calontir have created a Gazette or Gazette equivalent. This is a summary of what I can remember being asked by the people who have started other Gazettes. If you would like more information, please contact me.  You can see the East Kingdom Gazette here.

Why The Gazette Was Started

The Gazette was created to provide a timely communication vehicle for the East Kingdom with a large reach. At the time, the East didn’t have a good way to contact everyone. Few people read the official newsletters. The kingdom email list had gone dormant. Only some people were on social media, and they were scattered over Facebook, Google+, Twitter and Live Journal. The kingdom had tried online forums, but traffic was low.

The East needed a single source of information that could be proactively delivered to people and also act as a repository of information they could come find. The best way to create this seemed to be a blog that would push its article out via email and social media. In addition the articles and other information could be found on the Gazette by people who visited it.

Technical Set-up
I chose WordPress.com (as opposed to WordPress.org) for the website. At the time there were few suitable platforms available. If I was starting now, I would probably still chose WordPress.com because it’s still one of the most economical options that provides the features I need.

These are the features I want in a platform for the Gazette.

  • The site can be configured to function as a blog but also used like a standard website with static pages.
  • User friendly for people who aren’t experienced managing a website.
  • Automatic social media sharing built into its capabilities.
  • Ability to follow the site via email or RSS feed.
  • Easily handles multiple users.
  • Software updates automatically and there is tech support.
  • Spam filters built in and can be customized as well.

The Gazette has accounts on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. We maintain an email group so the editors can communicate with each other.  We also have a place to share documents online.

Staffing The Gazette
When I recruited the Gazette staff, I structured it so we had one editor in every geographic area (although defining geographic areas is tricky) and an editor who was active in each major activities. My thought was that they would be able to answer questions, reach out to their community for more information when needed and be aware of events we should cover. Sometimes this is how it works. However, the East is so interconnected that sometimes another editor is the one with the information. It’s good to have editors in a variety of locations and with many interests, but we’re flexible about who covers what.

In theory each person is editor-of-the-day twice a month. This means that they are responsible for checking the email, putting up submitted articles and creating articles that are needed. The number of days an editor works actually varies. Sometimes we’re short handed due to an open position or an editor is out of the rotation for the month due to life conflicts. When this happens, editors volunteer to pick up extra days.

The qualities we have found most useful for editors are these:

  • Comfort with computers and the internet
  • Common sense
  • Knowledge of current events in the kingdom and their implications
  • Ability to turn a submission into an article or recognize if a submission needs rewriting

Editors are sometimes stronger in different areas.  If they find themselves in a situation where they’d like help, they ask on our email group.  Examples include being unsure if an article is appropriate, wanting another set of eyes to proofread an article or technical posting issues.

The Gazette is run as much as possible by consensus. When policy questions arise, I ask all the editors opinions. However, someone has to make the final call and ultimately the choices end up being made by me. It’s why I’m listed as the editor for Site Management and Content.

How The Gazette Is Read
These are the statistics for where people have signed up to receive the Gazette.  They are current as of December 2014. The numbers are consistent with the referral statistics we see for click-throughs.

  • Facebook followers – 1,566
  • WordPress reader/email subscription) – 336
  • Google+ – 229
  • Twitter – 91
  • RSS Feed – unknown but we have them
  • Live Journal – A feed was set up for the Gazette by someone. I don’t know how many people use it, but we see referrals coming from there.

If an article is important and not already distributed by Kingdom on Facebook, we will post a link to the East Kingdom’s Facebook page.  Given the changing ways that Facebook chooses to place posts in people’s feeds, we felt this was important if something was to be seen. We also will post articles to http://www.SCAToday.net if it’s of interest beyond the East Kingdom.

Views And Unique Visitors
The number of visitors and views we get varies wildly. A slow day is 100 unique visitors and views. A heavy day is 2,500 unique visitors and 3,500 views. On the day of Crown Tourney, we can top 8,000 views because of the number of people reading and the number of articles posted.

These statistics don’t include people who receive the Gazette via email if they don’t click-through to the Gazette, which presumably few do. The number of people who see Gazette information during Crown is also actually higher than the reported number of views because the last several posts are so short they can be read on social media without clicking through to the website.

How many visitors and views is obviously dependent on the number of articles we published on a day.  It is also realted to how geographically wide the impact of the information is, the level of people’s interest in it and if our post are reshared. I can usually tell when a post cracks the WordPress Top 100 because the statistics change. Having an article posted to Reddit or on another kingdom’s webpage will also change them.

What People Read

An individual article can be viewed anywhere from 60 to over 6000 times. While every articles is important to some number of people, some are immensely more popular.  The more heavily read articles include anything that touches on politics or policy, obituaries, Pennsic, and pictorials of events or activities. It’s clear that people care about other people in the kingdom who may be struggling in some way, official news that affects them, and pictures that chronicle noteworthy events or artistic accomplishments.

Where We Go From Here

The Gazette is still an experiment. What we can accomplish is limited by the time and abilities of the volunteer staff. I’m hoping that we will be able to expand our coverage in these ways in the future.

  • History pieces – People like to read about the East Kingdom’s past and would like it recorded in an accessible place.
  • How To pieces – We’re slowly collecting introductory articles about the East and the SCA. They are posted on a page on the website to make them easy for people to find.
  • More Local News – People want to know what their friends are doing. We’d like to try to get more information about local happenings.

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