HOME
          
LATEST STORY
What’s the right news experience on a phone? Stacy-Marie Ishmael and BuzzFeed are trying to figure it out
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
March 23, 2012, 1:43 p.m.
Screen shot of local headlines on NPR.org home page

Location, location, location: NPR customizes the news with local content

NPR is testing how best to push its national web audience to local stations’ news.

Screen shot of local headlines on NPR.org home page

NPR is trying another experiment with geotargeted news, partnering with 13 member stations to deliver local headlines on the NPR.org home page. Location-sensing technology detects whether a user is in one of the test markets and, if so, pipes in headlines straight from a station’s website.

“From earlier tests we already know that there is some appetite among NPR.org visitors for local news. And we know that NPR.org can drive traffic to member web sites,” said Bob Kempf, the general manager of NPR’s Digital Services division, in an email.

“We know less about the differences in users’ expectations between local and national sites. Our goal is to learn more about how those expectations align and in particular if we can drive sustained engagement with member station web sites.”

The experiment will run four weeks. In seven markets, the local headlines link directly to the station’s website; in the remaining six, the user is taken to a station-branded page on NPR.org.

Joining a Facebook experiment

Last month, we told you NPR’s experiment with geotargeting on Facebook: When NPR shared links to KPLU stories on its main Facebook page — only visible to people in the Seattle area, not all 2.3 million fans — the station’s website got record traffic. More importantly, according to NPR’s Keith Hopper and Eric Athas, it drove more focused community conversations.

“For example, one KPLU story tackled a question Seattleites know well: Why don’t people in Seattle use umbrellas?” they wrote. “Residents of New York, Boston, or D.C. wouldn’t have much to contribute to a conversation around this question — or even understand why the question was being posed. But Seattle users — the only ones who saw this post on NPR’s Facebook page — had a lot to say.”

Hopper and Athas since have proposed expanding the Facebook experiment in a Knight News Challenge application seeking $340,000. They would build a “GeoGraph,” a sort of software dashboard that would let stations pitch stories for Facebook sharing, streamline NPR’s process for picking links and sharing them, and capture metrics to share the results with other stations.

“When you do a localization post, only people in that region can see it and see how it’s performing,” Hopper told me, “which is obviously a problem if you’re trying to develop learning among your participants.”

NPR can provide a richer experience by tapping its powerful network — almost 1,000 member stations, hundreds of which produce original journalism — since the network’s own reporters can’t be in every corner of the United States. It’s what stations have done for decades on the radio: providing a tailored news experience, a blend of local and national content.

And it’s another way for NPR to throw a bone to stations, many of whom produce news on a shoestring and can’t compete with NPR’s shiny digital products and national brand power.

“The localization experiment is really part of a wider effort to identify ways in which we can deepen our digital partnership with stations,” Kempf said. “Assumed in that is the goal of deepening engagement and ultimately growing audience both locally and nationally.”

POSTED     March 23, 2012, 1:43 p.m.
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
What’s the right news experience on a phone? Stacy-Marie Ishmael and BuzzFeed are trying to figure it out
“Nobody has to read you. You have to earn that. You have to respect people’s attention.”
Come work for Nieman Lab
We have an opening for a staff writer in our Cambridge newsroom.
The newsonomics of telling your audience what they should do
At WNYC, a public radio station is getting more aggressive about telling people what to do: go vote, get more sleep, stay healthy. What happens when a news outlet starts talking about behavior change?
What to read next
718
tweets
Ken Doctor: The New York Times’ financials show the transition to digital accelerating
The numbers may look flat, but they contain a continuing set of ups and downs. Up next: executing on a year’s worth of launches.
540Here’s some remarkable new data on the power of chat apps like WhatsApp for sharing news stories
At least in certain contexts, WhatsApp is a truly major traffic driver — bigger even than Facebook. Should there be a WhatsApp button on your news site?
502Controlled chaos: As journalism and documentary film converge in digital, what lessons can they share?
Old and new media types from journalism, documentary, and technology backgrounds gathered at MIT to share practices and discuss mutual concerns.
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
WikiLeaks
Media Consortium
InvestigateWest
Daily Kos
DNAinfo
American Independent News Network
El Faro
BBC News
Corporation for Public Broadcasting
Financial Times
The Daily Voice
The Orange County Register