Everyone in media these days is looking for the magic beans that will grow their audience in social media. NPR ran an experiment in this area over the last year and reported their findings in this article at the Nieman Journalism Lab website: What kinds of local stories drive engagement? The results of an NPR Facebook experiment. They identified nine types of postings that people love to read and hear and share and talk about. The “silos” include Place Explainers, Crowd Pleasers, Curiosity Stimulators, News Explainers, Major Breaking News, Feel-Good Smilers, Topical Buzzers, Provocative Controversies, and Awe-Inspiring Visuals, according to NPR.
Being a show-me-the-numbers kind of guy, I looked over the last couple of years of traffic stats at ncpr.org to see what kinds of stories went big. All the more because we have had insane traffic this week, with Tuesday being our highest traffic day ever–until Wednesday, which beat it by a mile. And today is running pretty high, too. We must be doing something right. We put a lot of energy into nuanced explorations of the local economy, rural land development, in-depth local politics, the arts and culture of the region. So which of these drives our big traffic?
Uh-none, it seems. Our biggest story today is a Brian Mann post about Bigfoot, and whether or not he or she might be found in the Adirondacks. This fits into our “Mayan UFO Zombie Raptures” silo. Yesterday it was sex scandals surrounding the Jefferson Co. Sheriff Dept., a representative of the “Big Sleezies” silo. The day before that was coverage of a drunken river guide, whose actions led to the drowning of a client, another in our long-running series on “Criminal Idiots.” “Whack Tech” came in a close second, with Sarah Harris reporting about using your smart phone to track road kill.
Looking to the recent past, we have gotten more than our share of action in the “Acts of God” silo, with Sandy and Irene, along with earthquakes and forest fires. Then there are the “Head Exploders,” which for reasons that aren’t always obvious, make somebody well-connected absolutely crazy. A prominent right-wing Dutch commentator drove 12,000 visits via Twitter to a story on Dutch immigrant traditions in Canada. It generated many comments written in all capital letters followed by multiple exclamation points, but fortunately they were mostly in Dutch, and so unintelligible to most folks here.
We also seem to like “Animal Encounters,” particularly when there is some question as to whether the animals actually exist. Reports of cougar sightings are always good for a couple thousand page views. It’s hard to tell just what, if anything, this has to say about the North Country audience, or about social media. I guess I’ll have to file the NPR study in the “Head Scratchers” silo.