Communications and PR

How Publishers Can Maximise Early Morning Traffic


By   |   March 28th, 2016   |   Reading time: 4 minutes Digital Journalism

Our guide to how publishers can make the most of early morning audiences, using tools and practices. 

Morning editorial meetings in any newsroom are important gatherings. There, the agenda for the day’s coverage is set, stories are pitched and allocated, and the means of reaching a disparate audience through different platforms begins.

The immediate question for reporters is: ‘what do we write about?’

Most news sites know that early morning is a peak time for traffic. And if you’re not on board with that early blast of traffic, reaching targets for the rest of the day become that little bit more difficult.

Three things to remember in going into morning editorial meetings for your digital news operation:

  1. Where has attention been overnight, and what are the stories that will drive discussion in the early part of the day?
  2. What readers will expect to see and read in their news feeds, and how can you add elements to the story that your competition won’t have?
  3. How can you make use of storytelling formats to bring these stories to readers in the most user-friendly way possible?

There are the obvious means of keeping up with breaking events. Dedicated Twitter lists are a must for digital journalists, as well as keyword searches in Tweetdeck.

Tweetdeck Search Columns

Making sure you’re as informed as possible before you get in is a key consideration.

Timing is an especially important consideration for newsrooms. Most sites will be aware of the early morning traffic surge from people checking out the day’s headlines on their phones on the way to work or school.

An analysis of the reach and engagement of NPR Facebook posts by metrics analyst Dan Frohlich showed that the period with the highest level of reach impressions and links was at 7 a.m.

Facebook reach NPR

Although this isn’t a complete study, it’s a scenario that will sound familiar to many publishers. It’s why a focussed early morning strategy is particularly important for newsrooms.

Previously, a morning editorial meeting was focused on filling the following day’s paper; now digital operations require the focus to be much more immediate and responsive.

Many NewsWhip clients use our Spike platform to help sharpen their output in the early part of the day.

At MTV News, a dedicated team is responsible for making sure that traffic comes through social channels early in the morning. Gathering each morning, the team decides what to cover, then assigns based on what they think their readers are likely to engage with throughout the day.

Insights and Research Director Justin Barton explains:

“We decided to go all in with Spike, and use it to allow us find articles early in the morning and write about them to start the day. We look at the highest velocity articles that are within our editorial fit. Then we have an editorial team writing about maybe 10 stories early in the day.

Then, we use Spike to influence what the long-form writing are going to be writing about.

So we’re using Spike on both ends. We’re using Spike to increase our traffic early in the morning, and it’s working well on Facebook, and then throughout the day we also send out alerts based on what we see popping up. At the same time, the long-form team will use Spike to help inform what they’re going to write about.”

Spike also sends custom email alerts based on keyword, location, or topic, meaning that you get alerted to a story as soon as it starts picking up acceleration on social media.

Users create custom panels based on the interests of their audience.

Spike Morning Alert

A morning news team might want to know the biggest stories on social media in the last few hours.

NewsWhip Spike Alert

In the instance of breaking news, like this week’s, there’s a clear path to the day’s coverage. Other times, the list isn’t quite so clear. Making sure that there’s a consistent path to good coverage is a key factor in attracting early morning readers from news feeds and timelines.

Presenting those stories in the most facilitating way possible is the next step. Here, it’s critical to think of the reader’s routine: are they really going to have time to navigate to your site and look for the stories they find relevant?

To combat this, many sites try to become a structured part of their readers’ day. One way to do this is through the trusty email newsletter, with the day’s headlines and events. The New York Times, BuzzFeed, Quartz and more all offer overviews of the day’s developments by email – the earlier the better.

Others offer morning round-ups over Facebook, WhatsApp and even Snapchat. Here, analytics and a culture of experimentation and innovation is key. Early morning audience teams should constantly be asking how they can better serve their information-hungry, yet time-poor readers.

Do you have tips to share about your morning process? We’d love to hear them. Let us know in the comments below, or by tweeting us.

Download our free guide to social distribution for publishers, for tips on how to maximise your content’s reach on social media

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