If you visit NPR.org today you might notice something different -- local news headlines on the home page. What you are seeing is an experiment that aims to build awareness of Member station's local news efforts through the placement of localized headlines on NPR.org and through engagement with Facebook. The test launched this morning and will run over the next four weeks.
For this test, NPR.org and NPR Digital Services are working with 13 Member stations to display local headlines in a prominent position on the NPR.org home page. Location-sensing technology allows us to geotarget the headlines to the appropriate local markets.
NPR is continually searching for opportunities to strengthen our growing digital partnership with Member stations. We believe this experiment is just one way to build upon that partnership.
The 13 stations taking part in this test were selected based on a specific editorial, market and technical criteria. We also limited the test to a smaller group for the purposes of experimentation. Once we collect the results and measure the success of this test, there will be more opportunities for greater participation in the future.
Member stations were split into two groups for the test.
For seven stations -- WBUR, WNYC, WAMU, WHYY, WFIU, KPCC and North Country Public Radio -- the headlines displayed on NPR.org link directly to station sites. For this group, we are testing how local users will engage with headlines from their local station. This builds off of encouraging results from a preliminary local headlines test from the summer of 2010.
Example of what this looks like on the NPR.org home page:
Using findings from a recent experiment with KPLU and NPR's Facebook page, we decided to put the other participating stations through a slightly different test. The headlines for the remaining six stations -- Michigan Radio, KPLU, KQED, KUT, Oregon Public Broadcasting and Boise State Public Radio -- link to station-branded story pages on NPR.org. The pages -- retrieved from the NPR API -- are designed for this experiment to encourage the user to "Like" the station’s Facebook page. Our goal here is to build longterm audience growth through a connection between the local NPR.org user and the station's Facebook page. All of the normal NPR.org story page assets have been stripped away from these pages, and the prominent station logo points to the station’s home page.
Example of what a station-branded story page looks like:
If you access NPR.org from outside the markets participating in the test, you won’t notice anything different on NPR.org.
For now, this is just an experiment. We are collecting and analyzing user behavior in the selected markets involved, and will do a thorough analysis after its completion. In the meantime, we would love to hear your feedback about this experiment, as well as other suggestions for ways we can continue to build a stronger national-local partnership.