Tag Archives: msu extension news

MSU Extension’s digital presence makes impact

Our Michigan State University (MSU) Extension articles are gaining attention nationally and around the world. I’d like to highlight two articles that have made an impression online and especially through social media.

Dr. Julianna Wilson, tree fruit integrator/outreach specialist in the Department of Entomology, wrote an article about the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) “Report Sightings of Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs in Your Home or Business.” This pest can cause serious damage to crops. The invasive species’ presence in our state is a high-impact issue that was able to gain the attention it deserved because of our well-established digital presence.

As of Oct. 12, this article has had 96,500 pageviews since it was posted on Sept. 25, making it the seventh most visited article on the MSU Extension website overall. On Sept. 28, we had a record 25,594 visits in a single day (primarily because of this article). (We average 11,000 to 13,000 per day with a record of just under 15,000.) On Sept. 29, that record was broken with 42,812 visits (again spiked by this visit). At its peak, these numbers were growing by 100 pageviews every four minutes. Ninety-one percent of the traffic to the article has been from mobile devices. Average read time is 4:07, which means people are taking the time to read it and absorb what they’ve read. More than 67,000 of the visits to this article have come from social media. It has spurred more than 17,000 social media interactions.

The article asks readers to report any sightings of the stinky pest to the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network (MISIN). Before the article was posted, there were six records of BMSB in the MISIN database. As of Oct. 13, there were 1,860 records of BMSB from Michigan and northern parts of states that border us ‒ mostly from the Toledo, Ohio, and South Bend, Indiana, regions.

Julianna said, “What these numbers tell me is that social media played a huge role in getting the word out about the article, and then the fact that the MSU Extension website is mobile friendly helped keep people there and reading the article. The last two pieces that made this a success were having an established database for collecting reports and good timing. This is the time of year when the bug moves into people’s homes and they notice it. The fact that we have this well-established reporting site (MISIN) for invasive species meant that I didn’t have to create a way for people to report numbers to me ‒ the infrastructure was already in place.

“I plan to use this data to determine where other hotspots have been forming and to get the word out to growers in those areas that if they haven’t before, they should certainly be scouting for this pest next season,” she said.

One member of our MSU Extension Consumer Horticulture Team is getting the word out about a particular poisonous fruit. Extension educator Gretchen Voyle wrote an article for the MSU Extension website “What Fruit Is Growing on My Potato Plants?

As a potato disease specialist, I was particularly drawn to the article that talks about the phenomenon that occurs when potato plants produce fruit on top of the plants. In fact, one of the first questions I was asked when I got to MSU was about tomatoes growing on potato plants. It seems that our cool July weather was responsible for the fruit’s appearance this year. The alkaloid content of these fruits puts them into the “they are edible once” category. In other words, don’t eat them!

It seems that a lot of other people are interested in this as well.

Dennis Bond, manager of Web services in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources let us know about the spread of Gretchen’s words warning people about the fruit.

Dennis said, “The article helped the MSU Extension website set a traffic record of 17,471 visits (previous record: 15,960 on June 1) though that record was broken seven days later by the article on the stink bug. It also set a social media record of 4,381 visits from social media sources, another record broken a week later. At its height in popularity, it was viewed on all major continents, in 2,040 cities across 100 countries in 63 languages.”

That gives us great perspective on the extensive reach of our MSU Extension website! Congratulations to Gretchen and to Julianna!

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MSU Extension website passes million mark

Sometimes it takes years to see our hard work pay off and often success is difficult to measure. I’m happy to tell you about one example where it didn’t take long to see the results of our efforts backed up by the numbers. Our newly created Michigan State University Extension website recently passed the million mark. As of November 14, the site has had 1,018,340 page views since April 18 when ANR Technology Services finished developing the framework and ANR Communications launched it. The number represents the number of times someone accesses the site. This amount in a seven-month period exceeded everyone’s expectations.

Your MSU Extension News articles are the most popular content – nearly half of all page views. Each Extension staff member creates two articles a month contributing to the diversity and expertise on the site. Obviously, your hard work is paying off. We are reaching a vast amount of people, sharing our knowledge through technology.

In our Nov. 5 MSUE webinar, we began a discussion on ways to ensure the quality of story content and to keep story ideas coming. Be sure to listen to the upcoming Nov. 19 webinar when we’ll go over some of those ideas.

Thanks to Extension educators and specialists who write the stories and to the ANR Communications staff and others who edit the stories and post them on the site. Thanks to ANR Technology Services, continually involved in the development of the site and working with us on goals to improve the site in a number of areas.

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Extension educators quickly respond to emotional health issues brought on by drought

Part of Michigan State University Extension’s mission is to quickly respond to emerging issues affecting Michigan residents. The recent drought has certainly given us the opportunity to do so, and we had a great report from Marilyn Thelen, AABI Extension educator, on our July 16 webinar to describe how the work groups in the Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute have responded.

We also heard Suzanne Pish, Extension educator in the Health and Nutrition Institute, describe how she recognized that severe weather was causing stress in growers dealing with the loss of the cherry crop. The recent drought is similarly affecting farmers and Suzanne is feeling its effects personally. Her Dad is a dairy farmer in southern Michigan where the drought is hitting hard. In addition, Suzanne and her husband raise goats and hay. The drought took one-tenth of their hay crop. She felt both the financial and emotional toll the drought was taking and could relate to the feelings of her dad, the cherry growers and other farmers in the state. Suzanne connected her experience with the effects of stress with her expertise as a social-emotional educator to write an article for our MSU Extension News “Farm-related Depression: Signs and Symptoms.”

A farm blog picked up the story. Fred Peralta, producer/director of WEIU-TV in Charleston, Ill., read Suzanne’s story and invited her for a web-video chat interview on his local agricultural program “Four Rivers Ag Report.” The interview aired July 20. You can watch it here:

This is a great example of how Extension educators and specialists get information out quickly to the MSU Extension News website and that information expands out in many directions. It’s also a great example of taking a core set of program priorities and recognizing how those might apply to audiences that aren’t regularly served by a particular work group. AABI colleagues immediately realized the need to provide technical expertise to groups they routinely serve. Suzanne and other colleagues on the Social-Emotional Health work group saw a need with that same audience, even though they mostly focus on youth and young adults with their programs.

Extension educator Karen Pace contributed to the subject as well with an article for MSU Extension News on the emotional toll severe weather can place on farmers and their families.

Extension educator Holly Tiret and members of the Health and Nutrition Institute are also putting together a workshop dealing with stress, anger management, and financial and credit issues. It will be ready soon to present all over the state.

I’m proud of how quickly our groups have responded to this issue not only in the usual ways but stretching beyond their focal audience.

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MSU Extension News educates on current issues

You may have heard the recent controversy about “pink slime,” or LFTB (lean, finely textured beef). Our own Michigan State University Extension News published an article by Jeannine Schweihofer, Extension educator, and Sarah Wells, outreach specialist in the Department of Animal Science, that gives consumers the facts about LFTB, which have been misrepresented in the media. This is a great example of how MSU Extension News produces timely unbiased information about current important issues based on expert knowledge and research. Of course, we’ve been doing that for more than 100 years. We’re just doing it through today’s technology.

 Read the article at http://news.msue.msu.edu/news/article/pink_slime_is_not_really_pink_slime.

 Read more articles at MSU Extension News at http://news.msue.msu.edu/news/home.

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Extension staff members calm growers’ weather-related fears through expertise and technology

Although we’re all enjoying the warm spring weather, the unseasonable conditions have raised concerns with growers. Eileen Gianiodis, Agriculture and Natural Resources Communications news manager, has received several calls from the media with questions about how this spring’s wacky weather may affect various crops. True to form, Michigan State University Extension educators and specialists have risen to the challenge. They’ve written numerous stories for MSU Extension News dealing with the weather craziness, and reporters have picked up those and called educators directly.

 Though we have not been able to track exactly how much publicity the issue has generated (at least a dozen media hits, but that’s way underestimated), I have been impressed with how ready, willing and able educators are to talk to reporters to help their readers, listeners and viewers understand the implications of an early spring followed by a frost. 

 This MLive Kalamazoo News article links to an MSU Extension News report by Jeff Andresen, associate professor, and Aaron Pollyea, research technologist, both in the Department of Geography. The report discusses the abnormally warm weather and the chances of a hard frost. The Kalamazoo News article also gives specific fruit information from Extension educator Mark Longstroth. Many of our staff members including Mark, Amy Irish Brown, Diane Brown, Duke Elsner, Erin Lizotte, Nikki Rothwell, Carlos Garcia-Salazar, Phil Schwallier, Bill Shane and Bob Tritten have written MSU Extension News regional reports on Michigan fruit.

 Reporters have interviewed staff members about the weather issue. View the following WZZM video in which Rebecca Finneran, MSU Extension horticulture educator, gives expert advice on how to cover plants to protect the early buds from overnight frost:


 MSU Extension News has proven to be a winner in expanding the reach of our expertise, and our educators and specialists are willing and more than capable of meeting the challenge of sharing their knowledge about an important issue, whether it’s through written articles, bulletins, interviews, workshops or one-on-one meetings with the public. Thanks to all who have helped to make us a valuable resource to farmers, gardeners and consumers in these uncertain times!

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ANR Communications director honored at reception

Dr. Ruth Hohl Borger was honored Nov. 16 at a reception in the Agriculture Hall Atrium on her last day as director of Agriculture and Natural Resources Communications. Ruth has accepted a position as assistant vice president at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Dr. Borger led the department through restructuring during a time of financial uncertainty. She also took the lead on the development of a revamped Michigan State University Extension website and MSU Extension Bookstore, and launch of MSU Extension News. Kris Hynes, senior associate to the dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, will serve as interim director. Kris will continue in her current responsibilities while serving in this interim capacity.

Congratulations to Dr. Borger! We’ll miss her enthusiasm, optimism and drive to innovate under challenging conditions. Thanks, Ruth!

Dr. Ruth Hohl Borger was honored Nov. 16, 2011, at a reception in the MSU Agriculture Hall Atrium on her last day as director of Agriculture and Natural Resources Communications

Dr. Ruth Hohl Borger was honored Nov. 16, 2011, at a reception in the MSU Agriculture Hall Atrium on her last day as director of Agriculture and Natural Resources Communications. Photo by Katie Alexander.

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