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The Breakup: Six Months In, How Are Poynter.org and JimRomenesko.com Changing?

Late last year, Jim Romenesko, considered by many to be the Poynter Institute’s star employee, left Poynter in a dramatic and widely-discussed breakup.

Shortly after, he launched his own blog, JimRomenesko.com, where he covers pretty much the same beat (media news and criticism) he had at Poynter. Meanwhile, Poynter hired Andrew Beaujon* to keep up the media beat there (along with other Poynter staffers) on Romenesko’s blog, now renamed MediaWire.

Now, more than half a year in, how are the two sites faring? Many predicted when Romenesko left Poynter that the nonprofit had signed its own death sentence. “Poynter has just Qwikstered itself in under 24 hours,” wrote a commenter going by Kevin Allman on the Columbia Journalism Review story about the debacle. (It’s the Internet, so no way to tell for sure, but that commenter is likely alt-weekly editor Kevin Allman.)

“Frankly, I have never read anything in Poynter other than Romenesko,” another commenter said on Poynter’s own post about the “mess” the departure had become. “I deleted Poynter from my favorites list,” another said.

But we wondered whether the outrage held up–whether people truly did stop visiting Poynter.org after Jim Romenesko’s departure, and whether the visitors flocked to JimRomenesko.com. We also wondered how the two sites’ reporting held up. After all, Romenesko is one man with diverse interests (he said at the time that he planned to add some stories about topics other than journalism) and MediaWire now boasts multiple bylines from four Poynter staffers besides Beaujon (soon to be three, as Steve Myers recently announced he was moving to The Lens in New Orleans). So how does the media coverage on Romenesko and on Poynter differ these days? And who’s reading?

First, we’d hoped to have an analysis of the two sites’ web traffic stats, based on information gleaned from Alexa and Compete.com. But it turns out, thanks to data provided to us by Poynter’s Julie Moos, that said analysis is going to have to be a bit less in-depth than we’d liked, because the data you can get from free online tools is pretty inaccurate (who’d have thought?).

What we can say is that the relative trends seem to be accurate, so it’s fair to say that Jimromenesko.com is on an upward trajectory since its launch last year:

(Except April. A measurement error? Again, free tools–low expectations.)

Poynter had a great April after a relatively slow first quarter:

Moos went on to tell us that unique visitors to Poynter.org are up 20% over the year, partly thanks to an effort to “diversify our audience,” Moos said. “Our traditional journalism audience was really rapidly declining between 2009-2010….we’re combining the news and realtime analysis at the same time. That’s helped us reach outside of our traditional audience.”

What sort of changes? What’s Jim doing in response? (Maybe nothing. He told us over email: “I’m just trying to have fun on my new site — using a lot of visuals, reader contributions, insider memos, and the like. I rarely look at Poynter so I can’t compare what I do with what they’re up to.” ) We’ll take a look at the coverage in the next post.

*Disclaimer: Beaujon edited the few stories I contributed as a freelancer to the Washington City Paper and employed me as a contract copy editor for about 6 months.

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