What Kinds of Stories Drive Engagement?


If your question refers to news, and specifically local news, NPR Digital has an answer for you.

Starting October 2011, NPR used geotargeting in five different regions to experiment with their Facebook Page content to see which would garner the most attention.

Then, during the months of July, August and September 2012, they looked at the geotargeted content focusing on the stories that the localized NPR Facebook following liked, shared and commented on at a high rate.

They found that nine types of stories typically attract readers. To identify a story's category, they asked a series of questions. Why did people share this story? What reaction did people have when they shared it? What is the story actually delivering to people – an explanation, a video, a hard news story?

The content buckets based on the primary characteristics of each story and roughly in this order (although not statistically relevant) are:

  1. Major Breaking News
  2. Place Explainers
  3. Crowd Pleasers
  4. Curiosity Stimulators
  5. News Explainers
  6. Feel-Good Smilers
  7. Topical Buzzers
  8. Provocative Controversies
  9. Awe-inspiring Visuals

Editors were highly involved in each location to help pull off the experiment by creating compelling headlines and delivering locally relevant and meaningful content that locals should be likely to share, like, and comment on.

The team also looked for a story that would pass the coffee shop test. This is the conversation-style that NPR’s Social Media Desk has developed, mixed with a splash of local flavor.

The splash of local flavor makes a difference. Of course, online you can search and see all the stories catalogued by Google and, especially for breaking news, you may feel there is too much duplication.

Think about it, though. If you go to your local news Website, that's the mention you see and read. There is value to telling the story from your point of view, too.


What I like about the experiment is that it focuses on the reactions of the audience and employs the practice of journalism to draw out topics of interest.

So much emphasis is put into deconstructing the production end of journalism, that it is refreshing to see a study dealing with the practices of the audience ever so lightly.

Say your question refers to business, would your list be much different?


[image courtesy Russ Gossett]


Valeria is an experienced listener. She is also frequent speaker at
conferences and companies on a variety of topics. To book her for a
speaking engagement click here.