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

Nonprofit Technology Conference

March 4, 2015 - March 6, 2015

The NTC is the nonprofit industry's signature technology event, bringing together more than 2,000 nonprofit staff, vendors, and consultants. 

2015 Computer-Assisted Reporting Conference, March 5-8

March 5, 2015

Join IRE and NICAR in Atlanta for our annual conference devoted to data journalism, March 5-8, 2015 at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis. Come and learn about tools you need to dig deeper into stories and give readers, viewers and your online audience the information they're demanding.

2015 SXSW Interactive, March 13-17

March 13, 2015

Check out some of the most important 2015 SXSW Interactive dates related to entry periods for sessions and events. Also, be sure to sign up for the SXSW monthly newsletter to learn about other SXSW announcements and information.

Sunshine Week: Your Right to Know

March 14, 2015 - March 20, 2015

Launched in 2005, Sunshine Week has grown into an enduring annual initiative to promote open government and push back against excessive official secrecy.  

2015 Philanthropy Southwest Spring Summit

April 18, 2015 - April 21, 2015

Save the Date! Philanthropy Southwest's 2015 Spring Conference will be held at the AT & T Executive Education and Conference Center, The University of Texas in Austin, Texas! Check back here for additional details as they become available.

Summer 2015 Journalism Ethnics Fellowship

May 23, 2015

The May 24-June 7, 2015 program is sponsored by Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics in collaboration with The Museum of Jewish Heritage—A Living Memorial to the Holocaust. Applications are being accepting for a fellowship, which uses the conduct of journalists during the Holocaust and in Nazi Germany as a launching point for an intensive two-week summer program on contemporary journalism ethics.

IRE 2015 Annual Conference, June 4-7

June 3, 2015

The Investigative Reporters & Editors annual conference in Philadelphia attracts the best in the business and offers more than 150 panels, hands-on classes and special presentations about covering business, public safety, government, health care, education, the military, the environment and other key beats.

2015 Ippies Journalism Awards Ceremony

Wed, June 10, 2015 11:00 pm

The Ippies is a journalism awards ceremony to honor reporting in English and languages other than English by the ethnic and community press.

Allied Media 2015 Annual Conference, June 18-21

June 17, 2015

Save the date for the 17th annual Allied Media Conference, June 18-21, 2015 in Detroit.

Philanthropy Southwest 2015 Annual conference

October 21, 2015

Save the Date! Philanthropy Southwest's 67th Annual Conference will be held in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Submit an event

New legal resources available for nonprofit news organizations

By Melissa Kaplan
2/3/2015 | 5:37 pm GMT

The Reporter's Committee for Freedom of the Press has partnered with the Investigative News Network to provide their media law,...

Using U.S. government datasets for local info

By Melissa Kaplan
1/27/2015 | 10:38 pm GMT

The Shorenstein Center has released a handy compilation of U.S. government datasets which journalists can use to deepen their stories. While...