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Mark Briggs's Articles

5 Takeaways from ONA

Here are five takeaways from the 2018 Online News Association annual conference in Austin, Sept. 13-15. I’ve been to 14 of the 19 conferences held since the organization formed in 2000 and I am already looking forward to the 20th edition next year in New Orleans.

The new, new thing? Instagram. Again.

Instagram is not new, but media companies of all shapes and sizes have been rushing to Instagram in 2018. Changes and challenges with Facebook’s algorithm have partly driven the push, but it’s also because IG continues to surge in popularity with audiences.

Instagram has long been known as the “positive” social network and local media companies have done well to leverage a strategy that emphasizes “pride of place.” Audiences will follow you if they look at your account and think to themselves, “this is why I live here.”

Of course, news brands also feel a responsibility for actually covering the news and presenting information that’s more important than a pretty sunset. “The trick is to balance the two,” says Lila King, Instagram’s head of news partnerships. “Do something that is deeply tied to what you stand for, being a pillar, a voice for the community. But also covering what’s happening.”

Yes, breaking news can work in Instagram, but should be done selectively. For example, KABC in LA saw a nice boost in referral traffic from this post. But if you look through the rest of the station’s feed, you will notice that its 220,000 followers receive a mix of content that leans heavily toward “pride of place” with situational breaking news sprinkled throughout.

Instagram has become a more complex platform in recent months, with Live, Stories and the new IGTV confusing what previously was a relatively simple play. Given that, we thought it would be timely to offer an Instagram reset with some recommendations for how best to leverage IG.

Want Higher Engagement? Form Facebook Groups!

Amid the flurry of industry headlines regarding the Facebook algorithm changes during the first quarter of 2018 emerged a conversation around the renewed potential for news organizations to use Facebook Groups to connect with their audiences. Facebook hosted a small group of journalists at their Austin headquarters during the SXSW conference in March to take a deep dive into Groups and here are some of the learnings from that session:

The meeting began with an algorithm update: As you are likely aware, changes were made to filter out Tag baiting, Like baiting, and Share baiting; all have decreased importance on Facebook today.

The 2018 Priorities for News on Facebook:

- Trusted sources and Informative content: Prioritizing news that people have told Facebook they find informative
- Local news: 82% of people are somewhat or extremely interested in local news on Facebook
- Local + News source = local publisher (per the algorithm)

To Produce for Multiple Platforms, Start by Listening

I had the honor of speaking on a panel at the NABJ Conference in New Orleans recently about producing for a multi-platform environment. Here is a quick hit of what I had to offer:

The most important step in producing in this era is actually not producing, but listening. You know the saying that to be a good writer you have to read a lot? Well, in order to be a good producer today, you have to consume a lot. Be smart about what you’re consuming and take note of why it’s resonating — or why it’s not. It’s also important to expose yourself to engaging content outside of the news echo chamber on today’s popular platforms; YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.

Have you heard of the term “Social listening”? Type that into Google and go to school. Newsrooms use it much differently than brands, as the goal is not so much to find out what people are saying about you – although that can be insightful – but what are people talking about in your community. What content should you produce that is going to resonate with your audience? You don’t have to guess any more. Now there are tools that can tell you.