Digital Beat Reporting
When we talk about how your station can transfer its on-air success to online platforms, and how that positive feedback loop can build visibility, credibility, loyalty and revenue in your community, we often reach for our pyramid chart.
Our three ingredient recipe for online success includes developing presence and expertise in investigative reporting and general interest, breaking news. And in the middle is digital beat reporting.
Why is digital beat reporting an important part of that recipe for success and why should you consider it for your station?
Digital beat reporting fits with the model in many public radio newsrooms. Even the largest stations have newsrooms that are smaller than their local newspaper, so many stations have chosen to focus on a select number of beats like environment, politics and the arts, with a certain level of general assignment reporting to fill in the gaps. With finite resources, it’s a strategy to get the most bang for every buck invested.
Digital beat reporting is an efficient way to build audience and credibility. Stations in the news business need to communicate their value to listeners and members and increase their credibility in the community. Beat reporting allows stations to establish a solid reputation on the issues they believe to be of greatest concern to their audiences. It taps into audiences who are passionate about the issues and builds their loyalty. What we’ve discovered through the Argo project is that this audience includes people with considerable expertise: for instance, a significant portion of the audience for WBUR’s CommonHealth blog is medical professionals. They can contribute their knowledge and thoughtful suggestions to your beat, and they recognize that their public radio station offers more value.
Digital beat reporting can attract the kind of support that builds sustainability. This may come from increased contributions, increased underwriting, or from grant funding related to the topic of the digital beat. When stations can showcase high quality, in-depth reporting on important issues, and can build loyalty around their commitment to that topic, they can leverage that success to build financial support.
Building a successful digital beat is not as simple as launching a blog. Just as we make a considerable effort to create and sustain effective beat reporting for radio, we need to do the same thing for effective digital beats. And we need to understand and meet the needs and expectations of the digital audience.
We’ve mined the archive of the Argo Project, and have created this guide to digital beat reporting for stations that want to explore this important path to multi-platform success. We're just getting started, so the number of posts here will grow in the coming weeks.