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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.

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Network News: October 29 – November 4

StateImpact Election Coverage Shoots And Scores

We saw our web traffic grow by more than 50 percent over the past month. That’s right: 50 percent. And a lot of that was because readers liked it and shared it with their friends. A whopping 64 percent more traffic came through social media in October than September–or just about any other month since our founding.

This can be attributed in part to interest in the election, yes. But it is also due in no small part to our reporters’ ability to keep their coverage tightly focused on state election questions.

Our strategy going into the election was to let NPR and others focus on the presidential race while we played to our niches. We set out to own selected down-ballot races. Oklahoma, Florida, Idaho and New Hampshire covered several key ballot measures; Ohio tackled state school board races and school levies; and Indiana focused on their state school superintendent race.

We followed the races closely tied to our beats and analyzed their implications. We set up explanatory topic pages related to each race or ballot measure. And we took care to make those pages SEO-friendly. Last week, as voters got Googling for information on their state-level races, it was these side-door topic pages where they found what they were looking for.  (See below for the week’s top traffic draws.)

The headline for this week is that we have largely succeeded in our goal to be the clearest source of information for state voters on these low-profile but important policy questions. For those who still haven’t made up their minds on the marquee races, there’s no shortage of places for them to go to educate themselves. But when it comes to SQ 766 in Oklahoma or Ohio’s District 5 State Board of Education race, we are it. We talk a lot about StateImpact “filing the void” that vanishing local outlets are leaving behind. That’s exactly what we are doing–and doing extremely well–with our election coverage. Nice job, folks! Continue reading

Network News: October 8-14

#NPRedchat a Multi-Million User Success

Last week’s Twitter Education Forum, hosted last week in collaboration with Tell Me More was a huge success. Not only did it provide a platform for a dynamic and diverse conversation about education reform in the US (and one that we plan to continue), but it also reached a whopping 17 million people–and counting. (That’s right. They’re stilll Tweeting. They just can’t stop!)

Tell Me More

Sarah Gonzalez of StateImpact Florida, Michel Martin of Tell Me More and John O'Connor, also of StateImpact Florida, at the October 10 Twitter Education Forum at WLRN studios.

Perhaps more importantly, though, the experience provided a big learning opportunity for everyone involved. Through both the subject matter and the partnership with Tell Me More, we were able to engage diverse communities that we hadn’t before reached. We test drove Scribble, our new and improved live-blogging and social media curation tool that we hope to use again and again. And we learned just how powerful Twitter can be when used for story and source development–instead of simple content distribution.

Sarah Gonzalez of StateImpact Florida tells us that the event allowed her to develop sources both near and far–particularly among teachers, parents and other sometimes hard-to-reach communities.

“They really wanted to engage in conversation,” she said. “We tapped into a Twitter audience that wanted to be part of the conversation instead of just following people who we know are influential.” Continue reading