Our goal: To own the news ….

A news site as popular as Insider Louisville doesn’t sustain its momentum by being self-congratulatory … by writing about itself.

We just crank out news, profiles, analysis and opinion posts every day.

But 2012 was our breakthrough year.

We broke story after story, added top talent, brought in experienced management and started thinking in terms of millions of page views instead of tens of thousands.

So, we’re going to ask you to indulge us for a few minutes while we explain where we are going by looking back at where we’ve been.

and the news about the news.

We lost track of scoops, which included breaking big stories and small including:

the entranceand exit – of the Holiday World owners in their bid to take over Kentucky Kingdom, or at least keep it closed, and out of the clutches of potential competitor Ed Hart.

the behind-the-scenes meetings and machinations that would lead the University of Louisville to restarting talks with Catholic Health Initiatives, talks that resulted in a new partnership.

the arrival of Urban Outfitters in the Highlands, (which Business First editors took directly from our site and claimed as their most popular story of the year. And yes, the Internet will bring more competitive journalism to Louisville, which is good.)

• the exit of the Courier-Journal sports franchise in the form of Rick Bozich and Eric Crawford leaving for WDRB-TV.

• the arrival of a significant piece of global spirits giant Beam in Louisville in the form of the the Beam Global Shared Business Center.

the new urban bourbon distillery Heaven Hill is building on Main Street.

• the end of Avalon restaurant, Mozz and several other operations that defined Louisville’s dining scene.

• the beginning of greater public scrutiny of the KFC Yum! Center and the Louisville Arena Authority bonds.

In the print  and broadcast worlds, newspapers and TV stations still cling to circulation figures and Arbitron ratings, though neither methodology yields any accurate accounting of news consumption.

By comparison, web analytics tools clearly offer a quantum leap in verification of traffic volume, but analytics remain something of a flawed science.

Even with Google Analytics, it’s difficult to say definitively how many people “read” a particular story. Still, the fact remains that we have empirical proof tens of thousands of readers opened these IL pages more than any others of the roughly 2,000 posts we filed during 2012.

Here are the Top 3 Insider Louisville stories that got the most page views during 2012:

No. 1 – “Mark Coomes: Cardinal football coach emits Strong odor of ingratitude.”

No. 2  – “Truly sad news: Restaurateur Dean Corbett arrested for drug trafficking,” by Steve Coomes

No. 3 – “Chef Corbett explains drug traffic charge in official statement.”

Runners-up were:

No. 4  – “Kentucky Kicks Ass: Tourism Department issues tone-deaf response to USA Today story” by Melissa Chipman. This post was by far the best “read,” with viewers spending an average of 6 minutes, 30 seconds on the page.

No. 5 – “Mark Coomes: The Pink Elephant in the NBA-to-Louisville controversy is the pink elephant downtown.”

No. 6 –  “Shocker: U of L has right to buy KFC Yum! Center if Arena Authority defaults,” by Terry Boyd

No. 7 – “Finally, Mozz closes and Antonovich is Gonetonovich,” by Steve Coomes

No. 8 – “Owensboro, Ky, a must-visit place, shows a town taxing and spending with vision,” by Steve Coomes

No. 9 – “Clements Catering rift with Derby Museum closes Avalon,” by Steve Coomes

No. 10 – “Social page fixtures John Lenihan, former RecoverCare CEO Mark Bidner in court over $4.4 million Glenview mansion,” by Terry Boyd

No. 11 –  “Standard & Poor’s downgrads KFC Yum! Center bonds outlook to ‘negative,’ but keeps BBB- rating,” by Terry Boyd

No. 12 – “Judge Not: Daily reports indicated several District Court judges skipped hundreds of days of work in 2010,” by Mark Coomes

No. 13 – “Kentucky Kingdom creator Ed Hart: ‘If Bluegrass Boardwalk fails, it will cost taxpayers $70 milion,” by Terry Boyd

No. 14 – “Sojourn Community Church: Is evangelical Christianity the next big force in Louisville urban revitalization?” by Terry Boyd

No. 15 –  “Monday Biz Briefing: Mounting U of L controversies have Ramsey loyalists rethinking their position,” by staff

As you can see, a significant percentage of our best-read posts were neither breaking news nor heavy financial or political analysis, but simply topics percolating in the zeitgeist.

There is no better example of that than Melissa Chipman’s post about the “Kentucky Kicks Ass” campaign by Kentucky for Kentucky, and state tourism officials’ failure to embrace its popularity. Rather, tourism officials dissed it in defense of the tired “Unbridled Spirit” campaign by New West. Melissa has a talent for identifying trends, then articulating what people are thinking. Same with Mark Coomes.

Mark’s post on U of L head football coach Charlie Strong touched a nerve among a public fed up with sports figures who forget reciprocity – fans getting a return on their loyalty from millionaire coaches – should be part of the college sports dynamic.

Which brings us to another measure of whether we’re reaching our readership.

IL stories ranked by Social Media activity:

1 – “Kentucky Kicks Ass” received 1,537 Facebook likes, which meant it was seen by at least 15,000 friends of friends on Facebook. The post also generated 62 tweets.

2 -“Mark Coomes: Cardinal football coach emits Strong odor of ingratitude,” received 1,390 likes and 140 tweets,

3 – “Owensboro, Ky., a must-visit place, shows a town taxing and spending with vision,” 708 likes, 26 tweets.

4 – “Why 2012 is the Year of the Beer, and why West Sixth IPA is Kentucy’s best,” by Michael Hannon Tierney, 622 likes, 15 tweets

8 – “Shocker: U of L has right to buy KFC Yum! Center if Arena Authority defaults,” 339 likes, 55 tweets.

9 – “Mark Coomes: The Pink Elephant in the NBA-to-Louisville controversy is the white elephant downtown,” 314 likes, 93 tweets

10 – “Sojourn Community Church: Is evangelical Christianity the next big force in Louisville urban revitalization?” 183 likes, 20 tweets

Social media provides the most the seductive of all the data points we analyze in our quest to give news consumers what they want. Social media is also a mixed blessing.

Yes, we can document which posts resonate with readers. But clearly, hard news and investigative reporting – even major scoops – typically don’t get shared as much as opinion posts on hot-button topics.

Our decades of news intuition tells us the posts that get tweeted and shared on Facebook typically are not the ones that build our reputation as a credible news site.

The Internet is a medium that includes an unpredictable, hard to evaluate and hard to control feature – stories going viral. Not because they contain information crucial to the survival of Western Civilization, but because they’re quirky, edgy and capture the moment for thousands of people.

Readers share them either because they encapsulate their sentiments, or make them angry.

At IL, we’ve considered – then dropped – models to tie contributor remuneration in part to “likes” and tweets. The reason is, we know from two years of experience that the value of a viral post is fleeting, while a look at how the court system works – or doesn’t work – can lead to long-term changes.

We’re proud of covering the Medicaid Meltdown, for example, even though the complicated issue reaches a small reader niche that doesn’t typically use Social Media. It’s important, and we’ll keep covering that, the broken banks, education and other subjects that do not spin the dial.

What we’ve really learned in two years is, we’re riding a technological tiger.

Will we tame the Internet tiger by perfecting our model, striking a balance between the instinct to goose traffic volume and readership with the tawdry, the partisan and the sensational, or  err to the side of cautious journalism?

Most importantly, we want to know what you think ….