We all have social media and digital best practices coming out of ears. But after thinking about how big media companies make their dough, I realized that, although there aren’t always the resources and staff and innovation teams at smaller papers, there are some simple, almost silly, tips smaller papers can take from the behemoths in terms of reader engagement. Things that make your organization seem relevant and savvy.
1. Go Vice
Ok, you don’t have to start covering the sex beat in your town, but start thinking outside the box. Vice isn’t just a magazine anymore, it’s also a production company, and a marketing agency. Is there a crime beat reporter who could easily start posting video reports along with his written one? Are there events or causes you could sponsor that you aren’t? Run a summer program where high school students can run their own vertical. Nothing is more niche than a local hometown. Be all over it. If there is a kinky sex beat, start covering it.
This is a silly one, and might be up for debate, but I think, depending on the size of your newsroom, you can tweet things that aren’t just links to upcoming stories. Retweet reporters who are tweeting from the city council meeting. Tweet about the crazy weather. Wish people happy holidays. It would bring eyerolls if the NYT started tweeting about a Ranger’s game, but if you’re a smaller paper that’s managed to stay staffed, I think it’s a good thing to remain ‘human’ on your Twitter account. It makes people feel like you’re worth knowing.
I read advice for new editors to blog with their staff about their transition. I think it’s a good idea to take that even further and get outside the newsroom. Did your site go down yesterday? Write an apology and about the process ala The Onion. Is there a decisive issue going on in town? Set up a page where citizens can vent or document their experience. Get gimmicky if your mobile app stinks. Crowdsource it.
Of course, I am no expert. But I do browse lots of small, regional papers for fun and work. And I see a lot of stiffness. Patch sites were the bane of the local journalist until they started to become glorified classified’s and top 5 lists. But there’s still space for good, hometown news. Do you work at a great one?