The Orange County Tribune has been “live” as a news site for about three months now, and folks are asking me, “How’s it going?” and “Why on earth would you retire, then do this?”
So here’s a few thoughts on that and somewhat related topics.
The Trib is doing fine. Our “circulation” is about 1,500 to 1,600 weekly now, and the trendline is up. A lot of people haven’t heard about us yet, and we are hopeful that it will continue to grow. It’s difficult to know just how much readership to expect, but we’re hopeful we’re on a pace to pass 2,000 early in the new year.
Unlike a newspaper, a website can track which articles are attracting the most attention. There have been some surprises, to be sure. We expected that the crime and fire news would draw much interest, and one of our most-read stories was about a fire at an Arby’s restaurant in Huntington Beach. Not sure why that resonated with people, but hundreds found that fascinating.
Next would be – somewhat unexpectedly – our reviews of local theatrical productions. Our reviews of plays at the Gem Theater, Festival Amphitheater and Westminster Community Playhouse each attracted over 400 “hits” each. I guess that theatrical groups are like a family, and they – and family members and fans – like to read about themselves and/or productions they watched.
In the third position is news about development. I mean news about specific projects moving forward or failing. A lot of traffic came our way with stories about new hotel projects on Harbor Boulevard in Garden Grove and the Edinger corridor in Huntington Beach. Our critique about the woes at Westminster Mall was also of considerable interest.
Surprisingly, coverage of high school sports has had only a modest return. Prep athletics is much less of a big deal than it used to be; I’ve been to football games on a Friday night where there were about 100 fans on one side of the stadium, and perhaps 25 on the other. This in a stadium the seats 5,000. Times have changed.
And the final question is: why are you doing this? As you may know, I was editor and part-owner of the Garden Grove Journal for nearly 30 years. We sold it to the Orange County Register in 2013, a deal which carried with it a three-year non-compete agreement.
Well, journalism is in my blood. To me, it’s a way to serve the pubic, be “in the know” and express myself creatively. Starting an online “paper” seemed like a way to do all that without the financial and other stress of a physical newspaper.
And that’s largely true. But it’s still more work than I expected. The Journal was a weekly (twice-weekly toward the end) but the Trib is really a daily. We’re usually posting anywhere from two to six articles each day, every day, so as far as retirement goes, it’s been a very brisk “rest.”
But this is what I love to do. I hope you like what we do and if so, you’ll tell more people about us.
Jim Tortolano’s Retorts appears each Wednesday. We hope.