Over the weekend The Conversation turned one. At this time last year, when we pressed the button to go live, we had no idea how many people would be interested in a website featuring the work of academics and researchers.
Since then we’ve had more than 2.5 million unique visitors, almost 4 million total visits, and 8 million page views. Over 300 websites and newspapers have republished our content, which is free under our Creative Commons licence.
These are fairly big numbers, but online publishing is littered with impressive sounding stats and we’re not getting carried away. When The Conversation launched a year ago we had a simple goal: to improve the quality of public debate by getting more people with real knowledge and expertise to take part.
We set out to build a platform for all the immunologists and architects and economists and historians and climate scientists who were tearing out their hair while their life’s work was being misreported and misunderstood. Our only real measure of success can be whether more of these voices are being heard and accurately getting their message across.
So here are a few even more significant stats. With our 15 commissioning editors we have now built the largest virtual newsroom in Australia. More than 2,500 academic authors have registered as contributors to the site. And we have become a well-known resource of ideas, contacts and new talent for the newspapers, TV and radio.
Astonishingly, around 40% of the academics and researchers who write for The Conversation report they’ve received follow up requests from other media outlets.
So what does this all mean? We think we’re well on the way to building a new service of trusted, authenticated and responsible content. To do this we will continue to resist both the tug of simple certainty that is the hallmark of some media outlets and predictable, ideologically driven agendas.
Among readers there is also growing concern about the quality of current media offerings, and a greater scepticism towards what they read, especially given the phone-hacking and corrupt payment shenanigans in the UK. There is a now a definite “flight to quality” to those media outlets that provide a higher level of scrutiny, accountability and transparency. With our unique system of disclosure statements and author transparency we hope to be a leader in this field.
And as journalists we want to offer a service that is trustworthy, fun, relevant, and contributes to better informing our readers. We have shown that with a little editorial support, academics can write well and do so within the day, sometimes within hours. And on their subject, they have so much to offer.
Many of you have written to say you are enjoying The Conversation. But we still want to improve and have many more ideas in the pipeline. Today we unveil a few small “refresh” changes and tidy-ups, plus we introduce our first academic columnist/bloggers.
Each one of our sections carries articles by our editors on how they have seen the year past, and also what you most enjoyed.
At this point it is customary to thank all our readers. But we owe you more than that. As a brand new website we would not be here without the sustenance you have given us through your frequent visits to the site and constructive feedback and engagement.
We hope to keep you posted on our progress in the year ahead, but in the meantime, please do tell all your friends about The Conversation and encourage them all to sign up for the free daily newsletter.
Happy reading (and for those who haven’t seen our Jobs site, happy job hunting!)