Digital Beat Reporting

While we're on the subject of lessons learned from the Argo Project... here's a link to last week's webinar about how stations used blogs focused on specific topics to build audience, credibility and impact in their communities and beyond. ( requires password access)

screenshot of MindShift, KQED

We’ve been assembling a large cache of resources about digital beat reporting and its progenitor, the Argo Project.

The Argo Project collaboration between NPR and select member stations has come to an end but many of the stations are continuing their blogs. And Digital Beat Reporting is just getting underway at other stations around the country, as they consider the success they can achieve when they smartly cover an important topic, build authority and credibility, and engage their community - a community that might be national or international.

Dark Secrets of the Online Overlords [VIDEO]

Aug 24, 2012

Fans of NPR's Matt Thompson (and who isn't a fan?) consider this presentation to be one of his best, which is a high bar.

Dark Secret of Blogging #8: Illustrate Everything

Aug 24, 2012

Marinate, for a moment, in the glorious ugliness of the Huffington Post. I’d say that HuffPo’s been more successful than any other news site before it in adapting the sensibility of the tabloid newspaper to the Web. Drudge led the way here, but HuffPo has nearly perfected its imitation of the irresistible pull of those sensational supermarket scandal rags, screaming at you with their blaring, saucy headlines, daring you not to look.

Dark Secret of Blogging #7: Comments are Content

Aug 24, 2012

This isn’t controversial anymore. We know that a strong community is a huge asset for any site. And as I mentioned previously, the Argo-blogger’s use of her crowd is going to be an essential component of her site’s success. But if we accept that comments are content (or more accurately, that community is content), what does that actually imply?

Answer: It implies we treat comments as content. And what are some of the things we do for content?

Content gets assigned.

Dark Secret of Blogging #6: Explain, explain, explain

Aug 24, 2012

Classic news folks have this habit of being flabbergasted when they discover their audience members don’t understand a topic they’ve been covering. “But we did a big explainer on this two weeks ago!” they say. After the health care reform battle finally reached its climax – the signing of the bill – reporters said they were astonished by their audiences’ hunger for explanation of what had just passed into law.

They shouldn’t have been surprised. Having watched how content gets picked up, I’m convinced that the hunger for explanation is inexhaustible.

We know we can’t easily break the world down into neat, manageable patterns. But I’ve never met a great beat reporter who didn’t try.

As we gain expertise in a subject area, we can’t help applying patterns to it - establishing the most influential players, identifying related schools of thought, discerning trends unfolding over years. This is the mental model that enables great beat reporters to determine what constitutes news, to figure out promising avenues for investigation, and to stay ahead of a topic so they can distill it for their audience.

Dark Secret of Blogging #4: Learn the Art of the Quest

Aug 24, 2012

Since basically the dawn of storytelling, we’ve known the power of the quest narrative, a.k.a. the hero’s journey. Our most popular and enduring stories have been quests; e.g. the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Iliad and the Odyssey, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Dark Secret of Blogging #3: Headlines are Hooks

Aug 24, 2012

Just admit you read the title of this post and thought, “Duh.” Of course headlines are hooks. That’s News 101.

OK, fine, but headline-writing for the Web is enough of a distinct art that it must be re-emphasized: Great bloggers write great headlines. And that should be qualified: great bloggers write great Web headlines.

Dark Secret of Blogging #2: Numbering is Narrative.

Aug 24, 2012

Take a moment to peruse PopURLs – one of my favorite snapshots of the Internet zeitgeist – and you’ll notice a recurring pattern – people love lists. The words “top 10″ or “5 best” or “3 most” just seem to hit some sort of primal switch in our brains, triggering us to devour and redistribute content.

The exquisite life cycle of Lifehacker content is a marvel to behold. Take a typical Hive Five post. (The Hive Five is a weekly call-out to the LH audience for software recommendations.)

The Argo Project, a collaboration of NPR and 12 stations, was one of public radio's first concerted efforts to build expertise and audience for high quality, in-depth beat reporting online.

The Beat: How to Find Your Star Blogger

Aug 20, 2012

So you're thinking about launching or expanding a digital beat. It might be politics or the environment or food. Where do you find a really great blogger?

Mont Saint Michel
LoboStudio Hamburg

Remember scarcity? I mean, surplus is great, but it was so much easier back in 1992. Radio stations had lots of media competitors but there was only one platform to worry about: radio.

The internet and technological change has blown up all that. Radio stations are still on radio, but they can also be on Facebook, twitter, Google+ (heard of it?), on a website or a blog. That’s great but so can everyone else.

Your Peanut Butter is in My Chocolate

Our weekly webinar series continues over the next three weeks with social media. We will cover tactics for building your online community, making your content more shareable and using Facebook Subscribe for reporting. We will also have Fresh Air's Melody Kramer guest presenting during our third week.

(Editor's note: These webinars have concluded, please find links to the recordings below.  Updated June 2012)

7 Steps to Relevance in Digital Journalism

Jan 26, 2012

Nathan Bernier is a radio reporter and lead blogger for, the station’s news blog, which is operated by the news staff. This interview was conducted and condensed by Ki-Min Sung. 

1. Use analytics.

Analytics will not ruin your news. You will not write about Justin Beiber or iPad 2 stories because you’re not stupid. I was concerned that introducing analytics would create a race to the bottom, but I think it better informs your editorial decisions. Ultimately, you ignore analytics at your peril.

That said, I don’t think more page views necessarily means a better site. The quality of the interaction matters a lot. Page views are just one measure of success.But you do have a responsibility to your audience to know if they like your stuff.