In the age of information overload, journalists need more than a good story to ensure readership. Readers have a multitude of choices, and you have to make sure that they choose you.

Up until a decade ago, reporters could rely on an exclusive, well-researched investigative story with a punchy headline to sell itself and pull in the readers. But in this era of selling news, one word matters more than any other — engagement. This was the key takeaway from the Global Investigative Journalism Network’s webinar on larger audiences, more engagement, and bigger impact: how journalists can better market investigative stories.

Engagement is the cornerstone of digital marketing. It is essentially asking yourself, “what can I do to ensure that more people read my stories?” Driving engagement is everyone’s job regardless of your role, says digital media consultant Yasmin Namini.


Why engagement matters

She points out that highly engaged readers will bring in more than just clicks. They are more likely to:

  • Correlate with higher subscription, membership, and donation rates
  • Consequently, the more content your subscribers, members, and donors consume the more likely you are to retain them
  • Registration, email marketing, and a smart newsletter strategy are great tactics to increase your reader engagement
  • The most important metrics for measuring engagement are recency, frequency, and volume.

She adds that journalists can employ the plus one strategy which essentially means, ask yourself what you can do to make sure that readers do one more thing on your website. You don’t just want them to read your story, you also want them to read one more article, watch one more video and listen to one more podcast.


Newsletters drive engagement

Newsletters can be a key driver of engagement. But you have to put a strategy in place for the type of newsletter you want to produce and disseminate. Namini notes these five rules to remember for creating effective newsletters.

1. Content is king but distribution is the ruler

2. Build habits of daily, weekly, biweekly, or monthly newsletters

3. Start with a building block: what are you providing?

4. Trust is hard to win and easy to lose

5. Direction is more important than speed. Think about the aim of your newsletter rather than rushing to get it out

The Daily Maverick’s co-founder and CEO Styli Charalambous highlights how journalists can maximise the impact and reach of an investigative story. He gave these pointers that his team had employed in the Daily Maverick newsroom.

  • Be thorough in your research and investigation to prevent the possibility of being sued
  • Deliver the content in a way that people would want to consume it
  • Plan to reach as many people as possible (social media channels, newsletters, cartoons, search engine optimisation)
  • Build trust and brand awareness with new audiences
  • Extend shelf-life of a story

Most importantly, you have to know your audience and know who you are targeting, according to Rossalyn Warren, digital outreach director at the Global Investigative Journalism Network. Journalists and newsrooms have to think about what their goals are, she says, adding that traffic is great but it will not lead to impact.

Build a connection with your readers and you will have an engaged audience.

Read more about maximising social media to improve engagement in your newsroom here.

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