2018 trend: Curious brands help news organizations answer their audiences most pressing questions

Editor’s note: As we wind down 2018, the Local Media Association is looking at some of the biggest trends of the year and sharing much of what is working in that space. This week, we take a look at newsroom listening and trust.

It was the year of the curious reader.

News organizations — both big and small — sought to use engagement tools to help answer reader questions as many discovered a huge reader appetite for the initiative. 

Readers responded well to being asked for topics on their mind and newsrooms quickly saw the engagement with the content.

At the same time, the Trusting News Project, a Reynold Journalisms Research Project, worked with 53 newsrooms on initiatives that could improve trust with users. They have been able to provide news organizations with a roadmap for what could potentially help newsrooms build trust with their audience. The Trusting News Project is running newsroom experiments on social media to build trust, asking news consumers about trust directly and tested seven-trust building strategies.

And asking consumers to share what they are curious and wondering about and then providing answers, provided to be an effective trust-building exercise. Many found the tools provided by Hearken as a helpful way to collect the responses and feature them.

Here’s a breakdown of examples of companies having success with this form of engagement:

Those Curious Readers

The Kenosha News was one of many that asked their curious readers to share their questions. Here’s an article in response to one of those questions “Why are there no life preservers on the North Pier?”

Curious NC became a brand across McClatchy’s North Carolina’s newspapers answering questions like this one on alleged election fraud.

Curious Texas was the Dallas Morning News’ adventure into answering reader questions. This is their landing page where you can see examples of questions they are answering from the future of malls to what happened to a former ice rink.

• It wasn’t all about using the brand Curious though. The Fayetville Observer went with Fay What, a pretty clever play on their name. Here’s their landing page. 

• And on the TV side, KHOU 11 in Houston, has their Verify brand which answers interesting questions like “Are poinsettias deadly for your pet?”

Taking reader questions to the next level

The Lancaster Online’s “We The People” allows readers to pick what the news organization writes about. Readers submit questions, the newsroom selects their favorite questions and then they are put up for a public vote.

• The Guardian’s Readers Questions provides readers a daily a series of questions that their audience might be interested in knowing the answers to. The questions are generated by surveys.