By Randy Arrington, publisher
When the concept for Page Valley News was first discussed, we thought we had a good idea — but at the time, we didn’t fully appreciate the eagerness for our platform or truly understand the scope of our audience.
In all honestly, we thought if our little website covering Page County, Va. could draw 10,000 users in its first year — we would at least have a solid foundation to build on. After all, the population of Page County sits at just under 24,000 — so, expectations of 10,000 to 15,000 visitors to the website seemed reasonable, if not modest.
The comparison to the county’s population, however, naively dismisses the “from heres” that are no longer from here. Folks who grew up here, and still have a deep interest in the happenings in Luray, Stanley and Shenandoah. It also dismisses the folks not from here, who visit the Page Valley for a multitude of reasons — the caverns, the national park, the river, a sporting event, family reunions and family funerals, a festival or the fair. It also dismisses our neighbors in surrounding counties and other parts of the state; our competitors in business, athletics or attracting visitors — or simply public officials involved in regional or statewide efforts to solve the same problems we are dealing with here.
We found out quickly, that the audience interested in Page County, Va. extends well beyond the county lines at Overall, Naked Creek and our two mountain ranges.
On Feb. 3, 2020, we went live with our vision to provide another outlet for information about life in Page County. We followed a run at a state title by the Luray High School girls basketball team for six weeks, until a worldwide pandemic changed life as we know it — with cancellations and a statewide shutdown literally announced during halftime of the AA state championship in VCU’s Seigel Center in downtown Richmond.
We followed the pandemic locally and across the region, staying in contact with key officials and providing updates as we thought they were needed — sometimes every day, sometimes once or twice a week. Many in the media (including us) have been criticized and accused of overblowing the pandemic and inciting anxiety and fear. We offer that the anxiety and fear are as real as the pandemic itself. Page County has seen a 65-percent increase in cases in the past month, and has more reported deaths from COVID-19 than Frederick County and the City of Winchester combined. We intend to continue providing regular updates about the COVID-19 cases in Page County — each reader may decide for themselves what they do with that information. Our job is simply to report it.
As we worked our way through 2020 with the rest of the community, we sought opportunities to provide information about resources that could help those in need, from food banks and community gardens, to unemployment information and loans for small businesses.
We worked our way through controversy and deep discussions, from who might be the next President to how we can address racial equality in our own community.
Somehow — through Zoom, Facebook Live, YouTube, socially-distanced meetings, virtual events, masked conversations and elbow bumping — we made it through 2020.
And we wouldn’t have made it without all of you — all 100,000-plus.
Earlier this month, PVN surpassed 100,000 unique users since our launch on Feb. 3, 2020. Here’s a look at the site’s visitation data provided by Google Analytics from Feb. 3 through Dec. 24:
- 108,860 Unique visitors (or users) — this includes each device that logs onto the site, so if one person uses their phone and their laptop to access the site, then that would count as two unique users (IP address) even though it is only one actual person;
- 282,959 Sessions (or visits) — this is a single visit to view something on the site; the site has averaged 2.6 sessions per user;
- 621,338 Pageviews — this represents the total number of pages visited; a user may visit several pages in a single session; over the first 11 months the site averaged 2.2 pages per session with an overall bounce rate of 48.6 percent.
Considering our initial projections and expectations, our wide collection of readers have truly created a Merry Christmas for us — and we sincerely hope the same for all of you.
As Page Valley News closes in on its one-year anniversary, we’d like to take this opportunity to invite more residents of Page County and beyond to join in the conversation, and truly make our site a community kiosk of events and a marketplace of ideas of how we can all move forward to a brighter future in 2021.
Write letters to the editor, send us a photo and a little information from your event, submit your list of winners from your contest or fund drive, consider approaching us about contributing a monthly column on a topic of local interest, shoot us a score of the ballgame, post a free job listing for your business, clean out the closet or the garage and list items for sale in the classifieds… but most importantly, share stories… share stories of both pain and triumph during the pandemic — share stories of our common struggle, so that we might come together more as a community.
As stated previously, we are all in this together.
There are better days ahead, rest assured — but it will take a little more time and vigilance on our part to get there.
So, we conclude with our best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season, and the anthem of 2020:
Wash your hands,
wear your mask,
and watch your distance.