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April 8, 2011 |  1:00 pm

A memo from Managing Editor/Online Jimmy Orr: hit a record 195.2 million page views for March. This easily trumps our previous best of 153.6 million in December 2010. We also saw a record number of 33 million unique visitors -- a jump of more than 8 million over our previous high in October 2010. And we saw our page views per visit increase significantly as well.

News events, of course, contributed to these records: the Japan earthquake and its aftermath; the death of Elizabeth Taylor; the unrest in North Africa and the Mideast; baseball’s opening day; and Charlie Sheen’s drama, to name a few.

But it was the way we covered events -- not the events themselves -- that made the difference. Bruce Wallace reports that Jeff Fleishman’s wife, living in Cairo in the midst of the madness, said she found Molly Hennessy-Fiske’s reporting on the blog to be among the most innovative and interesting anywhere. 

It was the continuous publication of new stories on topics people were interested in that contributed greatly to the record numbers. Frequently posting new stories, not merely updating existing ones, made the difference. This successful strategy better serves our readers.

We did a more effective job of promoting our related content as well, but this remains a key area in which we can improve. In the coming weeks we will be asking for newsroom input and help in creating better story-level pages for our readers. 

Significantly more people saw the visual storytelling of our photographers and photo editors than ever before, in part because we made it hard to miss on stories. Photo’s gripping galleries visually told stories of tragedy (Japan), of tension (Mideast) and of another time altogether (Taylor).

On the Japan front, tireless work from our correspondents drew record traffic from people coming to The Times for news of the earthquake and its aftermath -- Laura King with Kenji Hall anchoring from Tokyo in the first days, while Mark Magnier and Barbara Demick negotiated the tough conditions in the quake zone. They were followed by a second wave of dedicated web reporters: Julie Makinen, John Glionna, and Don Lee from the Washington bureau.

In the Middle East, it should be noted that Borzou Daragahi maintained his path-breaking commitment to the web from the difficult conditions of Tripoli. The ever-changing Cairo crew, led by Jeff Fleishman and including at different times Bob Drogin, Laura King (again), Garrett Therolf, Tim Phelps, Raja Abdulrahim, Amro Hassan, Ned Parker and Ed Sanders, joined Babylon & Beyond bloggers Maher Abukhater, Meris Lutz, Ramin Mostaghim, Alexandra Sandels and Batsheva Sobelman to keep the site fresh and in real time.

The jump in the foreign traffic would not have been possible without the generous and energetic help of Metro reporters who settled into the web chair to aggregate and report items. The long list of volunteers, in addition to Molly Hennessy-Fiske, includes Carol Williams and Ron Lin, who calmly handled breaking news, added video links and provided insight to the coverage on some of the busiest days, as well as Victoria Kim, Alex Zavis, Patrick McDonnell, Garrett Therolf, Ann Simmons, Chris Goffard and Business’ Alana Semuels. They showed that real-time news and good journalism are perfectly compatible.

Much credit also goes to the science team, who worked from the moment news of the earthquake hit through the wee hours of the night to aggressively own all angles of the unfolding devastation. (And Tom Maugh showed his versatility once again when he quickly turned around an explainer on congestive heart failure after Taylor’s death.) A “shake map” created by the data desk’s Ken Schwencke gave readers a virtual feel for what living with the frequent aftershocks must have been like.

How else were readers finding us? More than 24% of our traffic came from Google. This surpasses the two-year consistent average of 18%. The increase makes sense, as we were providing information to people when and where they were looking for it: in real time and through search.

Referrals from Facebook more than doubled our previous high. Facebook “likes” to the main LATimes URL increased by 78% in March. This is a very important metric, as a friend’s recommendation is the most powerful of influencers. Using social media is a top priority for us, and to that end we’ve moved blogging superstar Lindsay Barnett over to Martin Beck’s team to assist on the social front.

We also rolled out Facebook comments on the Technology, PolitiCal and Fabulous Forum blogs. The way we’ll determine success is if the quality of comments is better, internal moderation workload decreases and reader engagement doesn’t dissipate. This has the potential to increase the number of readers to these blogs too, as the comments could act as a new content-distribution channel.

[Business Editor] John Corrigan likes it so far: “The readers making comments are no longer shielded by the cloak of anonymity, so we’re getting better responses and fewer rants.”

We’ll continue to watch.

Now to the tale of the tape... Much of our timely coverage could be found on our blogs, which together more than doubled their record for page views. Not only did 11 of our blogs break records; this also marked the first time that the top five blogs all surpassed 2 million page views.

Record-breaking blogs

  1. Framework
  2. L.A. Now
  3. Show Tracker
  4. Travel
  5. Technology
  6. Booster Shots
  7. Hero Complex
  8. Daily Dish
  9. Jacket Copy
  10. Chatter
  11. Opinion L.A.

Top 10 blogs (page views)

  1. Framework -- 36,564,399
  2. L.A. Now -- 9,444,790
  3. Show Tracker -- 2,976,769
  4. Travel
  5. Technology
  6. Ministry of Gossip
  7. Booster Shots
  8. Hero Complex
  9. Company Town
  10. Lakers Blog

Top-read articles or blog posts

  1. 8.9 quake kills hundreds in Japan (Barbara Demick, David Pierson, Kenji Hall)
  2. Barefoot Contessa taking heat for repeatedly rejecting ‘Make-a-Wish’ cancer patient (Rene
    Lynch on Daily Dish)
  3. Volcano in southern Japan erupts (Molly Hennessy-Fiske)
  4. Crescent City, Santa Cruz hit hard by tsunami from Japan quake (Mike Anton, Shan Li)
  5. Did Paris Hilton say “I can’t stand black guys” in new book? (Greg Braxton on Show Tracker)

Things to come?

A remodeling of the right rail is in the works. Right now, it’s the wild, wild West. A uniform approach is needed. It’s much better for the reader. We will be announcing an SEO “czar” in the next couple of weeks. Look for a relaunch of Politics Now, and a real-time national news blog will be unveiled shortly.