Home' Local Media Today : March 2013 Contents 2 | LOCAL MEDIA TODAY | March 2013
This month we sat down with David Arkin, Vice
President of Content & Audience at GateHouse
Media, to tap his knowledge about audience
development, metered sites and Vine, Twitter’s
new toy. Arkin has shared a trove of data via
several useful links in this interview - to easily
access them, view the March issue of Local
Media Today digitally at www.localmedia.org
under the News tab or download the free app
for tablets and iPhones.
GateHouse Media publishes 78 dailies, 200
weeklies, 95 shoppers and 350 websites.
Reach Arkin at: email@example.com;
Twitter: david_arkin; Linked In: www.linkedin.com/
readership site: www.ghnewsroom.com
Vice President of Content & Audience at
We believe this is a fairness issue.
At a high level we want an abundance of content online, but we don’t want
newsrooms posting content that isn’t generating traffic, meaning it’s not useful to
We aren’t so concerned with doing different versions of stories, meaning a
print and web version. In some cases this can be useful, such as just offering the
bullet points to a city council story opposed to 15 inches. But generally, we’re not
concerned with writing two versions.
You and your colleagues have tested and researched the key drivers of
audience and apply a studied approach to developing and managing content
in that pursuit. What can you tell us about core areas for coverage that every
local community publisher should be prioritizing in print?
Some key topics are no brainers for all markets, such as government, education,
police and high school sports. But to truly understand how to cover those beats
and what umbrellas underneath each of those major beats are worth your time,
reader research is important. It can be as simple as a Reader Advisory Board. I
wrote recommendations on how to create a Reader Advisory Board a few years
ago, found at this link. http://www.ghnewsroom.com/newsroomhandbook/
Ask readers what topics are most important and rank your beats based on
that feedback. That feedback can help formulate the number of resources you
put into beats. But ensure that you detail what readers really want from a specific
beat. So if readers overwhelmingly want more education coverage, it’s crucial to
understand what about your education coverage they want more of. Is that more
test-score coverage? More school features, kids faces in the paper? Peel that onion
back and then react with a restructuring plan that puts resources in the right
spots. Be sure to tell readers what you have done and why.
Rules of thumb for content for the Web? In Mobile? In Social Media?
Web: Should be all about news that’s happening now, community
conversations around important topics and a heavy dose of multimedia. Our
websites should not just feature information about what has happened in our
communities, but there should be chances to discuss, debate, share and be
entertained. Readers of our websites expect a menu of categories to pick from.
We have to make it easy to get to those choices and interact with the content. The
beauty of the web is there are so many entry opportunities to provide readers
content in other areas they may not even expect to find on your site, such as
invitations to live chats, niche content and games. Readers land there for a
reason, but can spend lots of time on our sites if we offer enough relevant variety.
Mobile: Content on our mobile devices should really connect with where
readers are. An example would be a post early Saturday that reminds those who
are headed out for a parade that starts at 9 a.m. that 3rd Street is closed. Or at
6 p.m. Friday, a post that offers an injury report update for the big high school
football game that evening. That’s all content we are already creating, but we
have to recognize in mobile that content has to be repackaged and pushed out
at a logical time. We have to transition from an RSS machine to location-driven
content. I wrote a blog about this topic last year (http://www.ghnewsroom.com/
Social media: Be active. That’s the most important thing, and just like
mobile, don’t just be an RSS machine. Be conversational. Connect with folks.
Ask questions. Respond. People who use social media want to feel a connection
and relationship with the person and business that is pushing something to
them. Newspapers should make Facebook and Twitter part of their daily — and
I mean seven days a week — operation. Weekend traffic is huge. This year, we
are asking every GateHouse reporter to have a professional Twitter account and
Tweet twice a day (http://www.slideshare.net/carlene_cox/twitter-basics-16180452)
and every newspaper to post to their Facebook account (http://www.slideshare.
net/carlene_cox/facebook2013) five times a day. We are seeing huge increases
in our referral traffic since working with reporters on their professional Twitter
accounts and asking for more Facebook posts. In addition, we have been working
with newsrooms on developing other forms of social media content like Storify,
which has been extremely useful with capturing social conversations. Read our
recommendations on using Storify (http://www.ghnewsroom.com/top%20stories/
x1489225652/Learn-how-to-harness-social-media-using-Storify). We’re hopeful
these efforts that are resulting in high volumes of traffic translate into a new form
of conversation with our readers.
Tell us about the role of community contributors in your development
strategy? And please share any tips for developing and vetting citizen
There are a couple of things in this area that we’re doing:
• Community blogs: We launched an initiative a year ago that resulted in more
Tips & Best Practices
CONTINUED ON PAGE 14
Connecting media and markets is what audience
development is all about and of course, nowadays
that means multi-media channels and quickly evolving
forms of connection. Can you share your views on
content differentiation for the various channels?
We have spent a fair amount of time on this area; in
fact, an LMA article on this topic featured our approach
to content differentiation a few years ago (http://www.
Our view today is that generally most of those rules
still apply, but local analytics should really drive those
decisions. If in a market, a lifestyle feature is incredibly
popular online, then it’s a no-brainer that it should go
online. We still stand strong today on not putting police
blotter online that names those accused of committing
crimes, unless newspapers are following up on the
developments around those cases. We recommend
newspapers put up blotter of break ins, because it’s a
public safety issue, but to not name the accused, again,
because we don’t anticipate newspapers following the
developments through the courts for such minor crimes.
David Arkin and Nora Hicks, News Editor of Messenger
Post Media newspapers (New York) discuss a content
initiative recently in the newspaper’s newsroom.
Messenger Post Media, located outside of Rochester,
N.Y., includes a daily and nearly a half dozen weekly
7 Questions with David Arkin
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