This spring, the BP oil spill caused environmental devastation of epic proportion in the Gulf Coast. It also brought record breaking traffic to Seattle online environmental publication Grist.
Grist saw its highest readership numbers yet in the first half of this year. For January through June, site visits were up 30 percent over the same period in 2009. Grist now attracts an average of 800,000 unique visitors each month from readers around the country.
Grist's staff members cite oil spill coverage as one key factor in the jump, along with the public's overall heightened interest in the environment and Grist'ês own efforts in social media outreach.
Rebecca Farwell, Grist's general manager, said the site's oil spill stories were among the most clicked on this spring, and the content was in turn picked up by a number of other national sites.
"The oil spill definitely had an impact," Farwell said. "People are really passionate about it."
Grist wasn'êt the only news outlet to benefit from oil spill intrigue. Left-wing magazine Mother Jones saw record breaking traffic on its web site, with visits this spring up 125 percent from the same time period last year. Mother Jones staff attributed the jump to its team coverage of the BP oil spill.
Since its inception as an online environmental newsletter 11 years ago, Grist has been growing steadily. The nonprofit now has 25 staff members, including nine people in editorial.
The growth has come, in part, by Grist reaching out to young readers with its cheeky, humorous coverage of serious topics. This year, Grist worked to build up its Twitter and Facebook presence to draw more of the younger demographic.
Grist has also been striving to devote more attention to green urban topics. In recognition that more people now live in cities than do not, the site started to run more stories on transportation, waste, energy, architecture, and other urban living issues.
This fall, Grist plans to launch a redesigned home page. The site also plans extensive coverage on gubernatorial candidates and their environmental records leading up to November elections around the country.
This item was originally published on the Washington News Council's blog.