According to stats from Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) Technology Services, more than 35 percent of the traffic to the Michigan State University Extension site in 2014 was from mobile or tablet devices. Additionally, more and more of our users are now purchasing “smart” devices for day-to-day use, so it is likely that those numbers will continue to rise.
In an effort to accommodate the needs of all of our clients, ANR Technology Services has re-designed the MSU Extension website to be “responsive” to whatever device they use. That means that the website will determine, based on the size of the screen, how to display itself to make it as easy to navigate as possible. It will be just as easy to find what you’re looking for on a smart phone as it is on a desktop.
“A responsive website will help to ensure that MSU Extension experts and information remain available across the wide spectrum of mobile devices and screen sizes,” said Dennis Bond, web manager. “This type of website has been a goal of ours for some time now, and I’m very proud of our website development team for their superb design and implementation.”
This re-design was a long time in the making, and it goes a long way to help us be as accessible as possible, all while maintaining Michigan State University’s branding standards. Our website is a great place to highlight your effort and programming, and continued improvements will make it even easier to showcase. Great job, everyone!
Last Thursday, we received word from our colleagues at Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) Technology Services and ANR Communications that the Michigan State University Extension website had rolled over 10 million page views. That’s quite an accomplishment considering the site only launched April 18, 2012, and every year the traffic continues to increase. The site received approximately 1.85 million page views in year one, 3.64 million in year two and we are already at 4.63 million page views so far this year, still about a month away from our three-year anniversary.
When you submit content to our website (including articles, events, county pages, fact sheets and more), you are adding more opportunities for Michigan residents and individuals from across the globe to benefit from your expertise. You continue to impress our readers, and many are becoming return visitors with the help of digests and social media.
This is a truly amazing accomplishment made possible only because of the content you all create, and the forward-thinking ideas you bring to the table to utilize the website as an outreach tool. This passion for outreach has always been at the heart of MSU Extension, and now we have a website that can help us achieve our mission in the 21st century.
Our Michigan State University Extension educators write regular articles for our website, and we often find that their superb content gets a lot of attention from the public. Recently, we’ve had an article go practically viral very quickly after it was posted on Feb. 24. Dan O’Keefe’s article, “Asian Carp Being Eaten by Native Fish, New Studies Find,” quickly passed the 1,000-visit mark, and it is currently the most-read article on the MSU Extension website at 7,791 page views in less than a month.
Within days of the article’s publication, it exceeded even the traffic of the home page of the MSU Extension website. Adding to the traffic, the article was featured in Blue Water Satellite, an e-newsletter that focuses on Great Lakes issues. The biggest push of traffic came from Facebook, however, with more than 5,000 visits so far to the article directly. This post has attracted a lot of cumulative attention due to the timely nature of the study, the well-researched content, and the sharing on social networks that our friends and partners have done for us.
Great job, Dan!
The Lenawee County poultry story reminds me of another one that involves Janelle Stewart, Lenawee County Michigan State University Extension 4-H educator in the Children and Youth Institute. Janelle published an article for MSUE News in January titled “Create a Good Partnership in Eight Steps.” Last week, she received an email from Clare Membiela, associate director at the Thomas M. Cooley Law Libraries. Clare was planning some professional development for 50 library staff members at all five of Cooley’s campuses and asked Janelle if she would give a one-hour training on partnerships based on her article. Clare had read Janelle’s article and thought it would be helpful for her colleagues to learn from Janelle directly.
It’s not every day that a 4-H educator gets invited to speak to librarians at a law school. In this case, it’s the largest law school in the nation, and it’s our colleague Janelle who got that unusual request. You never know who might be reading your MSUE News articles!
I have been thoroughly impressed by the work everyone has done writing and submitting their two news articles per month for the MSUE website. To see the quality and breadth of work every day is awe-inspiring. But like any new venture the goal is to continue making it even better.
That is why ANR Communications, led by Michelle Lavra and Beth Stuever, has developed some handy tools for both article writers and article reviewers.
- The MSU Extension News: Source Guidelines gives examples of appropriate source material and how to references those sources for your articles.
- The MSUE News: Writers Guide is a checklist that writers can reference as they develop and review their own articles. It covers structure, content, sources, consistency and the final checks you should make before submitting your article.
- The MSUE News: Reviewers Guide helps reviewers assess and rate certain elements of a news article and make comments to the writer.
While it is not mandated that people use these new tools, I encourage everyone to give them a try. The news articles, which have driven so many new people to our website and increased the exposure of MSU Extension, are an organizational expectation and we must work to increase the quality of the articles. These tools serve as a great way to make the process of writing and reviewing articles easier, quicker and also will result in a better end product.
The MSUE News Toolkit, with all the tools mentioned above, can be found on Sharepoint under MSUE All Staff.
We can’t say it often enough, so I’m adding to the chorus: our Great Lakes are a tremendous recreational resource and anyone who lives here should make the most of them. But before stepping foot in the lakes, it’s important to be aware of the risk posed by rip currents. Michigan State University Extension and Michigan Sea Grant have teamed up to lead an effort to alert people of the risks of rip currents and the remarkably straightforward way to respond if someone ever finds themselves being pulled away from shore by a current. Senior Extension and Sea Grant educator Ron Kinnunen posted a news item on the MSUE news in June, and it has been featured on our home page over the July 4 holiday and this week.
We lose too many people to rip currents every summer, and often they are young, healthy and strong. As strong as they may be, lack of knowledge about the risk of rip currents and the proper way to detect and avoid or swim out of them overwhelms their strength. The answer is simple: if you’re being pulled away from shore, simply swim parallel to shore and you’ll get yourself out of it. If you’re not sure you’re strong enough to swim out of the current, the best thing to do is just relax, let the current carry you a bit further out, and then as it dissipates farther from shore, you can swim to the side to escape the current.
Refer to the article to find out how to get out of a channel current, another dangerous current found in the Great Lakes.
Ron’s article is one that should be retweeted, “liked” and forwarded as much as possible. And if you do visit a Great Lakes beach this summer, there’s a good chance you’ll see signs and cautions about rip currents that MSUE and Michigan Sea Grant and our partners have posted in many locations.
Be sure to enjoy our lakes, and be sure you and everyone with you is aware of how to avoid or escape a rip current.
A few weeks ago in Spotlight, I mentioned the May 21 Michigan State University Extension Update webinar and Beth Stuever’s presentation on our new MSU Extension website and the pilot News for Ag and News for MSUE websites that preceded our current site. Beth discussed statistics from a survey of Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute staff members who worked on the MSUE News for Ag website.
You may not find statistics interesting, but it may interest you to know that you have a direct hand in controlling them. The fact is that your involvement in the website is responsible for an increase in hits on the site. Your input is absolutely essential. Your expertise and knowledge make up the heart of the website.
In a survey completed in November 2011, 45 percent of AABI educators said that their writing skills improved since writing for the site. More than half admitted to becoming more familiar with online technology through working on the site. You’ve gone beyond your comfort zones and reached out to learn something new.
Sixty-one percent of respondents believe that the website has helped media relations efforts. We have been getting more phone calls from local media and seeing more visits to the website from the media. Sixty-three percent of the AABI educators said the website has increased our visibility with stakeholders.
Though some AABI members may believe they were wasting valuable time writing articles, in reality that time is never wasted. We are getting your knowledge and expertise out to Michigan residents, and we’re enhancing our reputation. We’re getting involved more quickly in national issues.
So keep writing those stories. Your efforts are appreciated, and they are making a difference.
I’m happy to announce that College of Agriculture and Natural Resources communicators and their partners received two awards from the Association for Communication Excellence (ACE) for their work with Michigan State University Extension in 2011. The ACE Critique and Awards program recognizes excellence in communication skills.
Joy Landis, Beth Stuever, Mallory Fournier and Mindy Pratt were awarded a gold award for MSU Extension News for Ag. This pilot project was the launching pad for MSUE News, which now serves as the backbone of the new MSU Extension website. This award is in the Best Innovative Use of Communication Technology category.
The four recipients focused on developing a system where all of our Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute field and campus staff could effectively deliver timely educational news through the new website. Joy and Beth note that this effort was truly a collaboration of many administrators and staff along with the communicators so in a sense we’ve all won this gold award. The communicators will be sharing their experience from developing MSUE News in a 90-minute session at ACE’s annual meeting in June.
The second award is a bronze award for a Four-Color Popular Publication. Native Plants and Ecosystem Services (E3167) was a Project GREEEN effort by recent doctoral graduate Anna Fiedler, entomology professors Rufus Isaacs and Doug Landis, and communicator Joy Landis. Sold through the MSUE Bookstore, the colorful publication explains the value of using native plants to enhance the many landscapes that make up our environment. See nativeplants.msu.edu for more about the publication (find the pub under Resources, Teaching Tools) and the Project GREEEN research and extension behind it.
Both awards will be presented at ACE’s annual meeting in Annapolis, Md., in June.