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October 7, 2014

Local Fix: News in My Ear, Mixed Message on Mobile and Algorithmic Ads

Subscribe to the LocalFix. Each week we look at key debates in journalism sustainability and community engagement through the lens of local news, starting with one good idea… 

One Good IdeaEngage diverse communities through creative partnerships. WNYC, The Daily News, and local NBC and Telemundo stations are relaunching the NYC educational data and reporting project called SchoolBook.org with articles appearing across platforms, a weekly email and research tools for parents in English, Spanish and Chinese.

Put The News in My Ear

4808475862_6129039fa8_oA flurry of articles this week take a fresh and optimistic look at the state of podcasting in America. In the Washington Post, Cecilia Kang highlights how podcasts are leveraging multiple revenue streams including donations, subscriptions and sponsors. Not only are more podcasts finding profitability, she notes, “the connection that people can feel toward their favorite podcasts is exactly the sort of relationship that many media companies are trying to build with their users.” In another article, Fast Company explored how podcasters and longtime public radio players are creating new networks to sell sponsorships across a range of podcasts. And NiemanLab asks why the popular public radio program This American Life is creating a podcast spinoff, serializing investigative reporting. But it isn’t just NPR personalities who are making podcasts pay, everyone from Slate to Snooki are getting in on the podcasting push.

This trend if worth watching for local newsrooms because of the intimacy and deep fan base podcasts have cultivated, the networked approach they are taking, and the multifaceted revenue streams they have developed. If you want to try adding audio to your site there is no better resource than Transom.org. It’s worth noting that SoundCloud just began rolling out ads and revenue sharing for creators too.

>>> A few months back there was a good debate about why audio never goes viral. Ethan Zuckerman thinks that might be a good thing, and NPR highlighted some viral audio experiments.

Mobile Means Many Things

One of my takeaways from the Online News Association conference is that “mobile” means many things to many people, but no matter how you define it, mobile is ascendant. From apps like SnapChat and Vine to the new Apple Watch, mobile distribution and engagement can be powerful. For example, the BBC had people respond to stories with emoji on WhatsApp to get a sense for how readers felt, not just what they thought. It drove new traffic to the story and helped inform coverage. For more on chat apps and user engagement you can check out slides from the BBC’s Trushar Barot here.

Michael Depp of NetNewsCheck has a good round-up of the mobile debate and discussion across a number of sessions, with some useful advice from a number of newsrooms. Mike Reilley of the Red Line Project has a good list of mobile tools he mentioned in his ONA session, as well as a Storify of the tweets. And earlier last month Poynter offered “4 Quick Tips for Attracting — and Keeping — Mobile Readers.”

>>> All this buzz about mobile came the same week that mobile-first news app Circa released its third update and The New York Times decided to rethink its mobile app strategy. NiemanLab has good posts on both, with lessons for all of us to think about.

Audience Attention and Algorithm That Sell Ads

AdAge reports on a new study that projects “ad inventory bought and sold through automated methods, broadly known as programmatic advertising, will rise more than 50% this year to $21 billion worldwide.” In that spirit, DigiDay looked at how the Tribune papers are experimenting with programmatic ads on their sites. But many small local newsrooms have found that direct sales with local advertisers provide more bang for the buck than programmatic ads. Hyperlocal sites often talk about selling the story of their site and their audience, not selling clicks.

This dovetails with other debates in advertising regarding how we can better serve readers and advertisers by measuring attention, not traffic. Next month, according to AdAge, the Financial Times “will roll out ad rates based on time rather than impressions, charging some advertisers by the number of hours their ads appear in front of targeted groups of readers” (The Economist is doing the same). Over at Street Fight Tom Grubisich explores how attention metrics might work for hyperlocal news sites and whether the cost of big analytics tools makes sense for small publishers.

>>> Beyond ads, here are “4 Unusual Ways Of Monetizing Your Creative Content


Building Journalism for Inclusive Community Participation

Last week was the Code for America summit, an event most newsrooms likely didn’t pay much attention to. But around the country Code for America fellows are working in cities and towns to help build more open and transparent local government – a cause close to the heart of journalists.

At the summit Laurenellen McCann, a civic innovation fellow at the Open Technology Institute, gave a powerful talk about the need for people working for public to be working with the public. It was full of concrete advice and examples of how we can deepen our relationship with local communities. After watching the video I asked McCann if I could remix it to highlight how journalists, like civic technologists, need to be building more inclusive communities. You can see the results here.

>>> Also be sure to check out Emily Shaw’s reflection on the Code for America summit where she asks some tough questions many of us in newsrooms would do well to ask as well.



Photo by Flickr user Melvin Gaal, used via creative commons.