It’s a “Hey, Martha!” story, a story that will make one person at the breakfast table yell out, “Hey, Martha, look at this.” It could go national or global.
If you work for a Gannett, a Scripps, a Patch, a Digital First Media newsroom or some other company with dozens or hundreds of websites, shouldn’t that be a simple matter of sharing with your colleagues?
How do you help your colleagues know about your great work, re-publish it themselves, or link to it?
Midday on Thursday, I noticed that AOL and HuffingtonPost were missing an opportunity to feature work by a Patch writer, a writer from a division of the same company.
The AOL homescreen has dozens of hedlines in rotation, but right now there is nothing pointing to the story of the melted evidence in the ice sculpture caper. There is “Star Tells How She Overcame Bullies” and “Brothers Inherit Collection Worth $2 million” — each pointing to posts from HuffingtonPost. (By the way, would a better hedline be “Estate Leaves Brothers $2 Million in Comic Books”?) The HuffingtonPost home page has a similar assortment. A quick search for “Salem” and “ice” turns up nothing about this Patch story on HuffPost.
One of the greatest connoisseurs of the “Hey, Martha” genre is Matt Drudge. Every day on Drudgereport.com he posts tightly written hedlines that link to big breaking news and political developments, but also a hedline or two pointing to bizarre, funny or just compelling “Hey, Martha” news. On two other sites, Fark.com and Reddit.com, readers submit similar posts. Fark editors pick articles to feature. The Reddit community votes for articles. In both cases, the homepages collect eye-grabbing links and can send tens of thousands of clicks to publishers. Fark and Reddit are not sites for readers who take offense readily or who take sarcasm or hyperbole as literal statements of truth. All three sites are good indicators of what stories are stirring conversation and drawing national audiences.
What interests me is the opportunity gap many publishers face, the gap between the national audience a publisher could collect for its own properties and the audience that it actually does collect. For awhile on Thursday, Drudge linked to a CBS Boston report based on a Salem Patch article (see screenshots). Let’s not debate the merits of the melted evidence story. Assume that a Drudge link, even one that’s up for a short time, is enough verification that this news has national appeal.
Why doesn’t the company that owns Patch, AOL, recognize the value that Drudge sees? Why doesn’t HuffingtonPost, an AOL division that links to almost anything hot, recognize and link to its own company’s original work?
Why does this happen more often than not at other large media chains? Gannett doesn’t have a big portal like AOL, but it does have USAToday.com and the websites of another 80 newspapers.
A Lee paper, the Sioux City Journal, has a story about a chicken McNugget that looks like the portrait of George Washington that is on the quarter. (Yes, you can buy it on eBay.) Should the dozens of other Lee papers each put up a link to it? A quick review of the Lee-owned St. Louis Post-Dispatch site, found nothing. A Gannett paper, the De Moines Register, does have the AP version of the McNugget story. That’s the one featured on Fark this afternoon.
Does any of this matter? Is there something you and your company can do about it?
One proposal I’ve made in conversations starts with Twitter. A media company can decide that editors will use a special hashtag and tweet to notify partner sites about news that could be of compelling interest beyond one market. Editors who think they have something that can go big can tweet the hedline with a company hashtag (#LeeShr #GCIShr). Other editors could have Twitter search set to surface those hashtags and hedlines.
If you have video of Jeremy Lin winning the state basketball championship for his high school team or an article about a high school killing a student’s editorial that accuses administrators of a “pro-Christian” bias there should be a way to let the rest of your company — and the world — know about it.
What works in your shop? Add a comment or send me a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.