Gilligan: Serving up more business news

Amy Gilligan

Our website analytics give us a good idea of what people like and what they don’t.

I mean, it’s not like Tinder or anything. But it’s a pretty accurate sketch of the kinds of stories that readers are drawn to, and those that get fewer looks. We can see in real time how many readers are on our website, what they read and how long they spend there. We also can see how many views a given story has over time. Throw in similar stats we watch on Twitter and Facebook, and you have a decent picture of what readers like to read.

A lot of the data backs up what we’ve known for a long time: Readers want to know about local issues — particularly public safety; they like stories that feature interesting local people, and they want the latest information on any breaking news.

One area that’s come into greater focus since we began tracking analytics is just how much readers like stories about local businesses. Time and again, the numbers on local business stories show a large audience interested in this topic.

The most surprising thing, perhaps, has been the incredible attention paid to anything related to the food and beverage industry. You people love a new restaurant. When we post something on our website about a new restaurant, we can just watch the number of people on the site climb.

Last summer, when local volleyball legend Kayla Banwarth was in the Olympic medal hunt, our stories about her and the road to Rio glory were repeatedly the top stories on our site. Until a little thing called Five Guys Burgers and Fries came on the scene. Our announcement that the burger joint had inked a deal in Dubuque was the most read thing on our website last August — even bigger than a local Olympic medalist.

Given the high interest in local business news, we’re trying to dish up even more. Business reporter Jeff Montgomery has begun a weekly feature, typically running on Thursdays, called Biz Buzz. In it, Jeff tracks down tips and provides updates on the latest information about new businesses coming, as well as expansions and closings.

This month we kicked off another new feature — a monthly series on the Sunday Business section cover, Made in the Tri-states.

This feature will highlight some of the signature products made right here in the tri-state area. Watch for new installments the first Sunday of each month.

If you’ve got a tip for Biz Buzz or a Made in the Tri-States product we ought to feature, send an email to jeff.montgomery@thmedia.com or ben.jacobson@thmedia.com.

We’ve got some interesting tidbits, many about businesses, retailers and restaurants you might not know much about. Now, they won’t all be Five Guys Burgers stories, we realize. But if Dubuque ever gets a Red Lobster, I’m pretty sure it will break the local internet.