The top stories of the past year and a thank-you to everyone who makes it possible to continue our work.
By Matt Skoufalos | January 2, 2020
If you’ve come to read NJ Pen in the last 12 months, thank you and welcome! Some of you may be new to us, but our data tells us that 416,690 of you checked in with us this year.
That’s up 18 percent from 353,317 in 2019, and for an independent local news website covering nine towns in South Jersey, that’s a healthy number.
It reflects a figure comparable to the population of the surrounding region. It shows us that we’re having an impact in the communities we serve.
Those of you who read NJ Pen in 2019 looked at pages on our site nearly 1.3 million times. About 10 percent of that traffic came from people who were simply doing a web search for something we’d written about.
Just like in 2018, 60 percent of our readers were new to the site in 2019, which shows us that the audience for our work continues to grow nearly six years into the job.
Up until a few weeks ago, most of that work was subsidized by a fraction of the people who read or otherwise benefited from it. In December, we rolled out a tiered paywall system to help drive reader support for our work.
Happily, many of our regular readers have responded! In just a few weeks, we’ve gone from 130 paying subscribers to 213 and counting. Thanks to all who help us continue on—and if you’re reading for the first time, please join us!
And now, some numbers…
In 2019, we published 236 stories (excluding our weekly recaps) spanning a variety of categories. With 70, police and fire news led our site by a bit, just edging out business news (60 stories) and government (54). “People,” our human interest and feature category, was next (25), followed by school and arts news (12 apiece), and finally, opinion and editorial (3).
This distribution tracks with that of our prior years. We work to provide coverage over a variety of subjects as best as possible, and many stories easily overlap a few of our in-house categories.
Of course, this isn’t the culmination of our work. We also maintain a presence on social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, publish an e-mail newsletter, and provide a text alert service, service, Direct Dispatch, by which you can get our headlines sent right to your phone.
Top 10 Stories (by page count)
The most frequently accessed stories on our site from the past year reflect the diversity of coverage we provide.
Some of them showed how responsive local media can help locate criminal suspects and bring closure to a police investigation. Others showed the impact of following up on a good tip, or the importance of maintaining communication with sources in the communities we cover. More than a few illustrate our willingness to dig beyond the basic information to bring back something worth reading.
Here’s your hits from 2019.
Police and Fire
The work done by local emergency services personnel has often comprised the bulk of our breaking news reports, from significant arrests and prosecutions to the efforts of first responders in moments of tragedy. Here are the highlights from 2019.
Small business has always been a coverage focus at NJ Pen because its impact reverberates far beyond brick-and-mortar walls and into community life.
In 2019, we introduced readers to openings, plans, and proposals for dozens of new local businesses, and informed them of the closings of many others. Our work in this area is often a reason many readers tell us they follow NJ Pen, but our coverage isn’t limited to commercial comings and goings. We also showed the role that many small businesses play in the towns that they call home. Here’s a sampling.
From elections coverage to policy action, we produced 54 stories on local government in 2019. Keeping an eye on the mechanisms of power and civics in the information age is an ongoing process, and not all that work happens within the confines of public meetings. NJ Pen endeavors to bring you closer to the people behind the decisions from both sides of the voting booth. Here’s some highlights from the past calendar year.
The “people” category is often a catch-all for our human interest news, which can be far-ranging in subject matter. The 25 such stories we produced in 2019 spanned topics from local history to communities pulling together to support neighbors in need. Here’s some of the most-read among them.
Local school coverage often doesn’t catch the notice of readers without children in the district until there’s a bond referendum or some other controversial item of interest. Nonetheless, public schools are often the sites at which a variety of community concerns intersect, and keeping an eye on their activities is part of the work we do.
In addition to being one of the only regular sources of voting information about school board candidates ahead of elections, NJ Pen covered teachers who made a difference in the lives of their students and issues of classroom safety.
Local arts and artistry are among the least frequently covered topics in our coverage area, owing only to the limitations of our staffing. Yet in 2019, NJ Pen uncovered a handful of significant storylines among the local creative culture in South Jersey, from multimedia works to community projects to pop culture commentary.
NJ Pen very infrequently offers editorial commentary on the events of the day, but is always welcoming of well-considered opinions and letters to the editor. We also have been fortunate to be able to publish the work of some great guest writers. Here’s a couple of their takes.
HELP US CONTINUE OUR MISSION
Become a paid subscriber. The direct support of our readers is the biggest thing that keeps us going. For less than $9 a month, you can help us pay our staff, promote our work, host special events, and improve the level of service we can offer.
Take out an ad. Do you own a local business, or do you want to reach more people in our coverage area? We offer affordable advertising rates and a free community calendar. Contact us for details. Don’t need to advertise? Support our advertisers—and tell them how you heard about them from us.
Follow us on social media. Throw our page a like on Facebook, follow our Twitter and Instagram feeds, and don’t be shy about sharing the stories that we produce. Every time you share, you help our work reach more people who could use good information.
Try our text alerts. With our new service, Direct Dispatch, we’ll send the news right to your phone when we publish. Plus, you can text us a tip when you’ve got a story that needs looking into.
Subscribe to our e-mail list. Want to know when new stories are published? You’ll be able to keep up with everything through our subscription service.
Tell a friend about NJ Pen. If you know someone who could benefit from the work we’re doing, tell them about us. We believe in keeping our work reliably responsive to the communities we serve. Let people know we’re here doing this work, and we can do more of it.