A graph showing the traffic stats of MercerCluster.com over the course of the last two weeks. The two major jumps in traffic have occurred when the print edition is released, and the smaller jumps correspond to the posting of breaking stories.

Within just four weeks of its launch, MercerCluster.com has officially netted almost 10,000 unique visitors from across the nation. That doesn’t count repeat visitors––only the amount of different IP addresses which have viewed the site.

Already, five times more people have consumed our content online than the total circulation of the print edition (1,500).

We’ve seen our content go from speaking to an insular student-centric audience to having a local, state and global reach on the Web.

Our contributors have already been receiving email feedback from readers as far away as Pennsylvania and Oregon, and our comment section has exploded in popularity among students, especially on Sean Kennedy’s recent column on Mercer stereotypes.

We’ve done well so far, but we still have some hurdles to face, including figuring out how to sort out our breaking news policies, setting up online advertising rates and better integrating multimedia content.

After a week’s worth of coding and posting, MercerCluster.com went live today and was officially announced in today’s print edition

At this writing, the site had notched 2,125 unique page views within an eight-hour period. I’d call that a pretty successful launch. The day’s most popular story was Kathleen Quinlan’s hilarious police roundup, which received more than 100 views by itself.

Thanks to all our dedicated section editors for getting the site online. Now I’ve got a bit more coding to do before the next issue so we can get this thing perfect…

We made significant progress on MercerCluster.com today. We integrated Twitter into the site, created new domain-specific email accounts and uploaded print edition PDFs using Issuu.com.

We’ve done all this by paying no more than $100 for a year’s worth of web hosting and domain registration. And although only two of us have any prior coding knowledge, almost all our section editors have figured out the uploading process fairly quickly, since we’re using a simple WordPress posting system as the backend for the site.

Here are top the three things we think make MercerCluster.com stand out as a student newspaper site:

1. Dual online and print identity – Our masthead uses a clean serif font for digital branding, but also includes the traditional English-style lettering of the print edition. This allows us to create a clear and unique web presence without abandoning our familiar print logo.

2. Microblogs and exclusive digital content – Not only are we including all of our regular print columns and content on the site, but we’re also setting aside space for exclusive web-only content including an editor-published campus update and discipline-specific blogs.

3. Social networking integration – Every single article we publish will instantly correspond to our Twitter and Facebook accounts, and be tethered on both ends of the spectrum.

So, it’s looking good for our Thursday debut. Now we’ve just gotta get uploading.

As the breeding ground of legendary newspapermen like Jack TarverBuford Boone and Reg. Murphy, Mercer has a long tradition of strong journalism. Pretty soon, we’ll be finally catapulting that tradition headfirst into the digital age with a transition that has been long overdue.

We’re just three days away from debuting MercerCluster.com, a new website that will provide Cluster readers an online platform to consume both traditional and non-traditional news content. But converting a time-honored newspaper at a historic college into a successful digital product has not been an easy or a straightforward task, nor can we expect it to be in the future.

This blog will chronicle the efforts of our small student biweekly to rise to the challenge of the digital age. It will tell the story of an old school embracing new media, documenting how a small but dedicated group of student journalists are figuring out how to tailor their product to the Web with limited resources and even more limited time constraints.

We have a lot ahead of us if we want to be successful, and it’s going to require us to master CSS and WordPress just as much as we have memorized AP style rules in the past. But we don’t have any other option if we want to keep up with the present and continue fulfilling our public duty to inform students.

-Carl V. Lewis, The Cluster‘s first web editor