How KETR's Coverage of the Sacred White Buffalo Killing Saw a 400 Percent Traffic Bump

May 9, 2012

By the time a sad story about the killing of a rare white buffalo went viral, Scott Harvey had already written three stories. Scott is the news director at KETR and the station's sole full-time news staffer. 

The  buffalo, born about one year ago and named Lightning Medicine Cloud, was found dead last week at the Lakota Ranch near Greenville, Texas. 

Early Friday morning, Scott reported the news on He followed up on the investigation later that day. And the following Monday he filed another story, this one highlighting the legacy of Lightning Medicine Cloud and an update on the investigation.

(I should note here that KETR is currently taking part in NPR's 11-week Knight Foundation news training.)

A wave of traffic

The three stories brought in a wave of new visitors to

  • Friday: The initial news stories helped get a 450-percent daily average increase in visits and a 412-percent daily average increase in page views.
  • Monday: The original pieces and the follow-up generated a 458-percent daily average increase in visits and a 319-percent daily average increase in page views.
  • New visitors: 75 percent of Friday's visitors were new. About 83 percent of Monday's were new.
  • Broad audience: 52 percent of visitors over the past five days are from outside of Texas.

By late Monday, news of the buffalo's death started to go viral. A story Tuesday on NPR's Two-Way blog linked to Scott's piece.

KETR hits magical formula

So, how was KETR able to earn such an admirable traffic spike? Well, first off, it helps that Scott Harvey and KETR General Manager Jerrod Knight have made a commitment to digital news: they don't hesitate to tackle a story for the web before they have the time and information for a radio piece. This strategy allows KETR to get out ahead of local stories, especially ones that have a broader interest.

In the case of the rare white buffalo killing, Scott didn't wait to jump on the story early and report on the initial news. And he did a nice job of telling this story for the web audience:

  • Well crafted headlines that were intriguing and included key terms.
  • Writing that was packaged and edited for the web audience.
  • Use of linking out to external sources when necessary.
  • Photos with every story.

All of these components together made the story more visible in search, compelled lots of people to share it on Facebook and provided a good digital news experience for the user.

And there you have it -- reporting, writing, headlines, links and photos -- the simple yet magical formula for creating shareable, searchable and valuable content on the web.