Using evergreen databases and guides with weekly narrative content

Our team has always been known for building lots and lots of databases. Or at least we get asked about them a lot.

Though we’re probably best known for our sports databases, some of my favorites from the past have been things like our restaurant health-inspection reports and state legislature voting records from our time at The Topeka Capital-Journal in the early part of this decade.

Don’t try to find those DBs — they’re long gone from 😦

I’ve long said that five things really push traffic on the web: content that people are passionate about, practical information, playful/fun things, personal communication and porn.

The databases that we build that typically get the best traffic fall under the category of practical information — things like a great local calendar, killer restaurant overviews, huge club guides, the biggest and best casino guides out there, etc…

But one of the problems that we have with these databases is that it’s sometimes hard to call attention to them.

One of the ways that we now try to play them up on is with something we call the Guest Gauge.

The Guest Gauge was originally going to be called the Strip Gauge, but after lots of talk with lots of people, it was decided that it was more than about the Strip and that name might actually tick off the LV locals — and the people who live here are actually part of the target audience for this feature.

One of the reasons we wanted to have this was so people who lived here wouldn’t be surprised if they ventured over to the resort corridor with visitors or to go to a restaurant or something like that, and then be hit with a huge crowd when they know CES isn’t in town. We also built it because Las Vegas fills with folks from Southern California every weekend and many of those people decide at the last minute if they’re coming or not.

And the biggest reason we built it was because content like this is right in our sweet spot. When we write about things like this, we get traffic because people are interested in it.

Then layer in that something like this didn’t take a lot of technical resources to build and it helped us indirectly point to our databases, well then you can see why we did it.

As for the narrative content inside the Guest Gauge, Amanda Finnegan — who focuses on developing content related to the gaming industry that doesn’t necessarily have a home in our company’s print editions — does it by checking daily hotel rates, combing through our calendars, researching which conventions are in town and how big they are, and checking in with people who can tell us how busy they think Vegas will be for the upcoming weekend.

In addition to noting the biggest conventions and providing deep links to our casino and calendar databases, we provide weekend room rates at some of Las Vegas’ major luxury resorts, as well as budget properties.

Using this data from several sources, we determine whether we think the city’s resort areas during the weekend will be very busy, busy, average, slow or very slow. We also note in a disclaimer that a “slow” weekend in Las Vegas would still indicate occupancy levels that any other city across the country would love to have.

The design for the page and the homepage implementation was done by the Las Vegas Sun’s online design guru Danny Debelius, while the back-end integration was done by Greenspun Interactive’s extremely talented Elliot Burres and software developer Chris Mason.

The Guest Gauge isn’t on the Sun’s homepage every day. It’s just there Thursday through the early part of Sunday. And while it carries a disclaimer stating that the Guest Gauge isn’t scientific, we do have evidence that we think shows it’s mostly accurate: a major casino executive recently told us we’re right on.

We’ve been doing this for nearly two months. So far, the traffic to it has been good but not great … and probably lower than we had hoped.

On the other hand, this kind of falls under the idea of “fail often and fail fast” and try to do it on-the-cheap. We don’t have a ton of resources invested into it and the potential for upside is definitely there.

We’ll see.

Either way, the Guest Gauge definitely helps us get attention to our immense evergreen databases and guides.


Here is how the Guest Gauge looks on our homepage — look in the right-hand rail:

Las Vegas Sun Guest Gauge


And here is how the actual Guest Gauge pages have looked over the last three or four weeks, showing what it looks like when Las Vegas is both busy and not so busy.

Las Vegas Sun Guest Gauge


Las Vegas Sun Guest Gauge


Las Vegas Sun Guest Gauge


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Dad. Journalist. Nerd. Music lover. Baseball fan. Puckhead.