Not a member? Sign up

NPR identifies story types that drive local engagement

by: Amy Gahran |

Today NPR Digital Services published the results of a study to gauge which kinds of local stories drive online engagement. The results, and the way NPR conducted this research, can be instructive for any community publisher.

For this research, NPR Digital gauged for three months (July-September 2012) traffic and response to geotargeted stories posted to the NPR Facebook page about six major markets: Seattle, San Francisco, Austin, Boston, and southern California. From this, they identified nine types of stories that seemed most likely to gain traction with local Facebook users in these markets:

  1. Place explainers. Stories that investigate, answer and explain local quirks, habits, paradoxes and other nuances that area dwellers know well.
  2. Crowd pleasers. Celebratory stories which capitalize on or amplify topics or events of local pride.
  3. Curiosity stimulators. Stories with compelling headlines that "capture the geeky and quirky side of a city."
  4. News explainers. Stories that dissect why or how certain local news events happened, or clarify their potential impact.
  5. Major breaking news. Such stories (such as Hurricane Sandy) don't happen often at the local level, but when they do this coverage can drive considerable traffic.
  6. Feelgood smilers. More generic happy or cute stories, such as local kids spearheading charity projects.
  7. Topical buzzers. "The story of the moment that everyone's talking about locally." This could be either a local story, or a local angle on a larger story.
  8. Provocative controversies. Hot-button topics that make locals' blood boil and that often attract heated comments.
  9. Awe-inspiring visuals. Photos or video of local wildlife, sunsets, weather, sporting achievements, and more.

How community news publishers can use this research:

As you create new stories, consider which of these categories they might fit into and see if you can play those angles up, especially in the headlines and summaries. You might also want to tag some stories according to these categories in your CMS to aid data collection and analysis.

Also, every community is unique -- so rather than simply adopt the categories NPR's research spotted, you might want to gauge the most engaging types of local stories in your community. If your venue has an active Facebook page, it's straightforward to replicate NPR's methodology to get your own data.

Subscribe to the Newsletter

Amy Gahran

Amy Gahran is a journalist, editor, trainer, entrepreneur, strategist, and media consultant based in Boulder, Colorado. In addition to writing
Read More

Events
Submit an event

Online News Association Annual Conference to be held in Los Angeles

September 24, 2015 - September 26, 2015

ONA's annual conference attracts hundreds of highly engaged digital journalists who are shaping the future of media.

Code For America Summit: Transforming 21st Century Government

September 30, 2015 - October 2, 2015

The 2015 Code for America Summit will kick-off September 30 in Oakland, California. For three days, more than 1,300 government leaders, technologists, and community members will  delve into how, together, we can transform government for the 21st Century.

Submit an event

52 ideas for raising revenue for local journalism

By Nancy Yoshihara
6/29/2015 | 10:00 pm GMT

Assessing potential business models for local journalism takes time and frankly that means yet another research project.  Looking for a...

Blendle’s lessons from its first year with micropayments in journalism

By Nancy Yoshihara
6/22/2015 | 10:00 pm GMT

The Dutch pay-per-article startup Blendle shares key lessons from its first year. The company was greeted with some skepticism when...