NPR Pleased With Test Of Local Content On Facebook

By David Cohen Comment

NPR conducted an experiment using the ability to customize Facebook posts by location with its Seattle affiliate, KPLU, and the experiment was a rousing success.

The public broadcaster said it used Facebook’s geolocation capabilities to post one story from KPLU on its Facebook page each day, visible only to users in the Seattle region, and it was pleasantly surprised by the results:

During the first four months of this experiment, we posted about 50 geofocused KPLU links — a fraction of all KPLU content — on NPR’s Facebook page.

These posts accounted for 12 percent of’s sitewide visits during this four-month period. The test helped KPLU achieve three milestones: record traffic for a single day (Jan. 19), second-highest traffic for a single month (October 2011), and the highest traffic for a single month (January).

NPR said it limited the test to one KPLU post per day in order to conform to its usual pace of about one NPR post each hour, or 10 to 12 per day. As for how it selected which KPLU content to post:

We work with KPLU’s online managing editor, Jake Ellison, each day to determine which story we’ll post. It must pass what we call the content coffee shop test: the conversation style that NPR’s social media desk has developed, mixed with a splash of local flavor. We want stories that will raise curiosity and be talked about in a Seattle coffee shop.

Jake works with reporters to produce stories that will hit this sweet spot. If it does, NPR Digital Services posts it to NPR’s Facebook page. If you live in the Seattle region and like NPR’s Facebook page, you may have noticed more Seattle-oriented stories from NPR, linking to If you live outside of Seattle, this experiment hasn’t touched you.

The broadcaster added that a major component of the success of the local posts was Facebook users liking, sharing, and commenting on the content, with the perspective of how it related to them and to Seattle. NPR offered as an example a story about Seattle native Amanda Knox being flown back home, and users commenting on how the event would affect them.

Will NPR extend this experiment to other markets?

We’ve told you a lot about what we know from this experiment, but there are plenty of things we’re still investigating. We’re curious if this can be replicated in other markets and are exploring options for scaling it to more member stations.

Some questions about this test will be answered when the experiment grows — something we’re looking to pursue. Although we’re still analyzing the results, we’re confident about the potential of this as a powerful journalism tool.

Readers: Would you like to see more national and international media outlets experiment with locally focused content on their Facebook pages?