What You Should Know About the NPR Local Stories Project

Apr 17, 2013

In the Local Stories Project, stations from across the country share ideas and knowledge.
Credit Via Flickr user Dave77459/Creative Commons

UPDATE Sept. 3, 2014:

For the latest on The Local Stories Project, check the public homepage at local.npr.org and Twitter account @NPRLocal.

Original Post:  

What is the Local Stories Project? In a nutshell, it’s a collaborative project between NPR Digital Services and stations. We take local public media stories, make them shareable and deliver them to the people who care most about them. The result: huge spikes in traffic to member station sites, hundreds of shares and localized community-focused comment threads.

We started this project in 2011 as a Facebook experiment with one station. We're now partnered with 33 stations in 28 cities, with more to come. We invite all interested public media stations to apply for the next round here.

So, how does the Local Stories Project work?

Content

When stations join the project, the first thing we do is present this challenge: Create digital stories that people living in your city will share and talk about. Those are the stories stations must create for this project to be successful.

It's the type of story people share because it's meaningful to them as Austinites, Seattleites or Bostonians. These distinct stories are the lifeblood of the Local Stories Project.

Every station is required to first take part in a four-week editorial training program where we cover everything from headline writing to mining online communities for story ideas. We also introduce a framework for thinking about digital stories.

We work closely with station editors throughout the four-week bootcamp. Station editors use a workflow tool developed by Digital Services, which allows them to pitch stories and receive feedback from us. It’s a collaborative process -- we offer suggestions on stories that are pitched, and we encourage stations to comment on each other’s pitches.

Once station editors can master the art of creating shareable local stories, everything else clicks into place.

Distribution

When a station editor creates a story that's just right, then it's time for us to share it far and wide. A Digital Services editor publishes the story to the NPR Facebook page. But it doesn’t go to the entire 2.6 million-like audience. Instead the story is geo-targeted so that only people in each station’s market can see it in their News Feeds. For example, only people in Oregon see Oregon Public Broadcasting stories in their News Feeds.

As we ramp up the Local Stories Project, we’re exploring more ways we can spread public media content beyond Facebook.

Collaboration

The Local Stories Project is a digital network designed for collaboration. Stations from across the country share ideas and knowledge. When a story pitch is submitted, all stations can see it, comment on it and learn from it. There’s even a real-time leaderboard that displays the Top 10 stories based on the social success metric we use.

We’re Learning

The Local Stories Project is a new initiative. With that in mind, we’re watching it closely and learning from what we find. This has helped us shape and re-shape the project.

We’re using the Local Stories Project as a testing ground for understanding our audience and the stories they share. It helps inform how we work with stations on social media and digital story creation. It provides stations with better insights into their local markets and the stories that make local people tick.

We’re also learning a lot about the potential for this project to bring public media together into a stronger digital network. Moving forward we will continue to use what we discover to evolve the Local Stories Project.

Local Stories Project Coverage

View Local Stories Project in a larger map