One of the cool things I’ve been working on for the last year or so is the Local Stories Project from NPR Digital Services. The NPRDS team collaborates with local member stations to share compelling local web content on the NPR Facebook page, geotagged so it only hits the screens in a member station’s listening area. As I’m writing this, the WAMU Facebook page has less than 6,000 likes compared to more than 4 million on NPR’s page — it’s obviously a lot more social media fire power than we’re normally able to bring to bear.
I was assigned to be WAMU’s point person, quite by chance, and the project has opened many doors for me. When you first start out in the program, they give you a small tool set with which a story can be assessed and its share-ability emphasized. Include an interactive element, put in a poll, phrase the headline like a question, make it a list, use sub-heds. I merely took these tools and tried to bludgeon the existing station content with them until they were approximately the right shape. It worked, to a degree, but I began to see a few glimmers that the status quo was changing.
After a point, I started to despair that reporters weren’t giving me the raw materials to put together a social media hit. So I started to write them myself.
It turns out it’s much easier to find success in social media when you actually control the creation of content. And with my Interactive Journalism program at American University essentially forcing me out of the door to do stories, the result was stories wired for sharing and that also happened to meet the assigned criteria. Everybody wins!
As this year has progressed, I’ve continued to write more and more as I’ve gotten comfortable in my little web-first niche. At the same time, I’ve also been experimenting a bit with posting content to and getting story ideas from my time-wasting darling, Reddit.
Imagine my surprise when NPR Digital Services comes through for me again, having me be a guest speaker alongside KBIA’s Scott Pham on a webinar explaining why member stations should be on Reddit. Shortly thereafter, I was also cited in an article explaining how to make serious stories shareable.
It’s so easy to get locked into the grind in this job and not pick your head up to look around once in a while. I myself am susceptible to it, particularly during the dark days of winter. I’m grateful that I’ve found myself in this position that stimulates my creativity, motivates me to keep pushing, and acknowledges my successes. It’s been a good year!