A project of Democracy Fund

June 10, 2014

The Local Fix: Reeling in Readers, Tweaking Tweets and More

Welcome to the Local Fix newsletter, where we look back at the week’s journalism debates through the lens of local news. Once a week we will be curating some of the best writing on journalism sustainability and pairing it with concrete advice, tools and resources for local journalists. Have tips? Send them to jstearns@grdodge.org or on Twitter to @jcstearns. 

1) Making Readers Stick Around – from related content to regular readers

The New York Times has been studying how audiences travel from story to story across the Times website, and is creating new tools to help drive traffic and keep people sticking around longer. The tool they are creating may be most relevant to large news organizations, but the insights they are gathering about how to more deeply connect your stories to other stories and topics on your site are useful for anyone, large or small.

You might also be interested in… You know those “related content” boxes you see at the end of many articles? Well, New Jersey native and former Wired editor Ryan Single is trying to recreate the “recommended article” to focus on helping people find truly meaningful content on your site. The importance of keeping people on site is not just additional page views and ad dollars but because more time on site will help turn them from drop ins to regular readers.

2) Tweaking Twitter – making your tweets sing

8436949515_a80e27a4ef_bThere have been a number of articles this week about fine-tuning your Twitter strategy. I was surprised to learn that the main Twitter account for NPR was, for a long time, automated with an RSS feed of headlines and links. But when they put humans in charge of the feed they saw a 45% increase in traffic back to the site. On a related note, Nieman Lab asked seven newsrooms how they manage their Twitter accounts, and how they think about return on investment.

What all these articles miss is how local news organizations can use Twitter, not just as a channel for their content but as another way to engage in the discussions happening in and around their communities. We can discover those conversations, listen better and tie our content back to it, to help inform and move the discussion forward.


3) Charts, Charts and More Charts – readers, revenue, audience and attention

Josh Benton has a deep dive over on Nieman Journalism Lab about an annual report on where people spend their attention (and how that relates to where advertisers spend their ad dollars). “Mobile continues its rocket rise, and there’s still lots of room for ad revenue growth,” he writes, “Mobile is eating the world, and most news organizations make only a pittance off it.” But Benton is optimistic that news and local information on mobile could be uniquely aligned with advertising.

Over at the Columbia Journalism Review, Ryan Chittum highlights that advertising hasn’t always paid the bills. Historically, when there was much more competition in newspapers, they relied more heavily on reader support and subscriptions. “It’s striking how much less dependent papers were on advertising before the 1980s than they were during and afterward. The rise of advertising was largely due to the decline of newspaper competition.”

4) Revenue Quick Hits – fast reads on big revenue ideas

11 Revenue Sources for Digital News – In a series of examples and case studies James Breiner give a great overview of these strategies: Create community, don’t just publish news. Memberships, not paywalls. Sponsorships, not ads. Content marketing, editorial services. Consulting services. Direct sale of products. Events. Repackage and sell data. Foundations and NGOs. Emerging entrepreneurs. Real-time ads, daily deals.

How News Organizations Are Generating Revenue From Social Media – This is 4 years old, but provides some interesting ideas for leveraging your online communities in ways that are meaningful to both readers and advertisers.

Sports contests bring in revenue, data, readers for regional media company – An interesting look at how two news organizations are using contests to bring in new sponsors, offer new kinds of engagement and expand their email lists.

(Image by Flickr user nathanielstern, used via creative commons)