Like all publishers, the editorial team at Metro U.S. newspapers – which puts out commuter papers in New York City, Boston and Philadelphia –brainstorms which specific story ideas will be of interest to their online readers each day. The challenge that Metro and all publishers and brands face is identifying content, and types of content, that see the most Web traffic, and developing a strategy to keep the momentum going once a story catches on.
Cassandra Garrison, managing editor of digital for Metro U.S., told Ebyline that when deciding which stories—and other types of content—to tackle online, the newspaper group considers what stories would be fresh and appropriate for the “Metro voice,” which appeals to young, commuting professionals.
Garrison says she might start by researching what is trending on social media and Google, “as we know they are of interest and will probably attract readers to our website,” she said.
At Metro, the most popular types of stories online are breaking news, gossip, celebrity interviews, sports analysis and “news you can use.” Breaking stories first also typically gets a story more traffic, according to Garrison.
Garrison sends a weekly report to her staff identifying the 10 most-trafficked stories as well as sources of traffic.
Promoting Content Velocity
Once a news story hits with readers, editors at Metro do their best to push more traffic there hoping for a snowball effect. Some publishers use Facebook ads to generate momentum, some add additional related content, some push out additional social media posts with links to the popular content, and some move the content to a more prominent spot on the homepage.
Garrison said that her first step after noticing a story is taking off online is to make sure that the story has been promoted on all social media channels. Right now, Metro has Facebook and Twitter accounts, and the New York office also uses Instagram. However, Garrison said, Instagram hasn’t driven much Web traffic.
Two Metro stories that recently received significant traffic were “Disc Jockey: Give Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Counselor’ Another Chance” and “Top 10: Sochi’s Sexiest Athletes in GIFs.” Metro sent out links to both of these stories on all social media channels multiple times. For example, here:
If an article has already been promoted on social media, Garrison says she might prompt her social media manager to post it again at a later date as “in case you missed it” content.
Garrison’s next move is to relocate the story to a prominent spot on the homepage, which is reserved for the top story. She also makes sure that links to related stories are featured. The website also typically features a “hottest topics” section, which is another avenue for promotion.
Another strategy Metro uses is to write additional stories on the same topic but with different angles.
When asked what advice she would give to other publishers and brands looking to increase content velocity, Garrison said, “If you haven’t optimized your content to achieve maximum exposure, you aren’t giving your story a fair shot to make sure it gets to your readers. In my opinion, the changing landscape is exciting. Journalists love to learn — it’s in our nature. Get as much knowledge about digital as you can, and it will be your stories people are reading.”