Online news: Recirculation and search as the referrer

Earlier today, a publisher was showing me the web site stats and describing how traffic has soared. “Do you know where they are coming from?” I asked.
His expression became more sober. “Well, that’s one of the problems” he replied. “We have lots of information, but we don’t know that.”
IWe agreed would be useful to know how many people were coming in as a result of a news search to read a specific story, how many came via a headline on the home page or other key entry point, such as sports main, and then where they went–did they read one story and leave, or were they recirculated? And if yes, to where?
The conversation went on in much more depth and got into questions of branding, focus, and strategy (with revenue as the backdrop for everything of course). We parted, agreeding to talk further.
I was reminded of the relevance of these questions to many newspaper sites when I read a post on the online news list from the Albuquerque Journal’s Donn Friedman’s on how readers enter his site: 28% from a search; 16% from a Google search and a reply from journalism prof Eric Meyer saying that newspaper sites are commoditizing search and “trivializing” their content.
I think I’d put it another way–in a world where sophisticated search tools make it easy to pull up your content, how do online news sites prepare for readers who may bec oming in as the result of a specific link in an aggregated list? T
his kind of user case makes a news story much closer to a blog post than to a traditional article, in that it is discovered as part of a linking strategy evoked as the result of a query (I am thinking of topix and Google News here). So how best to acquire these users, or at least, recirculate them into the parts of the site?

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