At the ONA19 conference in New Orleans last week, teams from Facebook, Instagram, and CrowdTangle joined more than 2,800 journalists and media leaders to discuss the future of online news. Known as a “digital family reunion” for the world’s largest association of digital journalists, the 20th annual ONA conference was held from September 12-14 at the Sheraton New Orleans hotel. The Facebook Journalism Project (FJP) was a co-sponsor of ONA19 and hosted a series of sessions and workshops that we’ll recap below.
“We’re so excited to be part of this conference and work with organizations like the Online News Association because we know this is where the future of our industry is being built,” Jason White, Facebook’s director of news media partnerships for North America, said during the opening night reception. “This is where the innovators come. This is where we connect with each other.”
FJP made three big announcements during the conference. We published the first CrowdTangle U.S. report for local news, a data analysis that showed people on Facebook have an increasing appetite for local news, and we hope the report’s insights will inform newsrooms’ social media strategies. We expanded “Today In” to more than 6,000 cities and towns in the U.S.; it’s a destination where people can find local news and community information on Facebook. Newsroom leaders can learn more here. And finally, 23 U.S. news organizations received grants from the FJP Community Network fund to support projects focused on journalism that builds community in news deserts, or places that have a low supply of local news.
Below, watch videos and read all the highlights from ONA19 workshops and sessions hosted by Facebook, Instagram, and CrowdTangle.
Platform Partnership Roundup for Local News
Josh Mabry, Facebook’s local news partnerships lead, joined leaders from Google and Microsoft to expand on the many opportunities, partnerships, and funding that tech platforms have announced this year for local news. Mabry emphasized the spirit of collaboration that infuses each FJP program.
“Local publishers are working together to solve problems and serve communities around the world,” he said. “Our programs are really not about Facebook but about the future of news businesses. How can we bring publishers together? The theme is collaboration, and we’ve been doing that better than ever before.”
Coordinating, Verifying, and Contextualizing Breaking News Coverage
Ensuring people get accurate information during breaking news situations was the subject of this session. Panelists included Jimmy O’Keefe, Facebook’s product marketing manager for Today In; Stephanie Federico, a digital news editor at Austin’s NPR station, KUT; and Cory Berman, co-founder of Factal, a corporate news alert startup. O’Keefe walked through our recent expansion of Today In to 6,000 U.S. cities and towns, how that affects newsrooms, and and our tests with more than 150 U.S. local news publishers of the Facebook breaking news indicator, which allows publishers to notify readers that a story is breaking. He also discussed the expansion of Local Alerts, Facebook’s tool to help local governments and first responders keep people in their communities safe and in-the-know.
“We talked a lot about the tools we’re building for local newsrooms and first responders to communicate breaking news and urgent information to people in their communities,” O’Keefe said. “We know how important it is to elevate trusted, authoritative voices — particularly during emergencies or urgent, evolving situations in cities and towns across America. We got to dig in with publishers and journalists in the audience about some of the complexities involved, including how we think about balancing the value that these tools create for people and for partners.”
CrowdTangle Trends Report: How Is Local News Performing on Facebook in 2019?
At the start of ONA19, CrowdTangle published a U.S. local news report, which shares broad trends of how the industry is performing on Facebook so far in 2019. “One of the key takeaways was that local news matters to people on Facebook,” said Amber Burgess, CrowdTangle news partnerships manager, who led the session. “Findings in the report show that U.S. local news Pages have seen significant increases in interactions per post, despite consistent post output. This indicates that local news Pages are seeing higher returns on their Facebook investments year over year.”
After walking through the report’s key insights, Burgess moderated a panel of audience engagement leaders that included Heather Ciras, senior editor of audience engagement at The Boston Globe; Glen Hale, director of digital content & audience development at Gray Television, and Emily Ristow, loyalty & engagement news director at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The editors shared their own analyses of 2019 data and trends on Facebook and elsewhere. Their high priorities include producing long-form videos and experimenting with subscriptions-only Facebook Groups.
Lessons From the Instagram Local News Fellowship
Three young journalists worked in metro newsrooms last summer through the Instagram Local News Fellowship, a program we piloted with the Missouri School of Journalism’s Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) to help newsrooms reach younger audiences. Three Mizzou graduates were trained by Instagram and sent to develop Instagram strategies at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, The Boston Globe, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. At this ONA19 panel, fellows and editors from the latter two publications spoke with Nico Gendron, a 2018-2019 RJI Fellow who helped us launch and manage the program. They discussed each newsroom’s exponential growth on Instagram during the fellowship, which was published in detail on Poynter. The fellows shared Instagram tips for other newsrooms.
“I loved seeing the fellowship come to life on stage,” said Lila King, manager of Instagram news partnerships. “We knew going in that the fellows were impressive, and that they’d learned and accomplished so much in their newsrooms this summer. What made it extra special was seeing the dynamic across the whole group — Nico, who’d steered the program, and the editors who served as the fellows’ newsroom mentors. You could just feel the trust and warmth from the whole group. That shared trust across journalists with all different levels of experience is a big part of what made the whole program work.”
The speakers were Emily Dunn and Grace Lett, who spent their fellowships at The Boston Globe and the St. Louis Post Dispatch. Their newsrooms mentors were Elaine Vydra, audience development manager & online news editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and Devin Smith, senior manager of audience engagement at Boston Globe Media.
Instagram Story School
Our popular Instagram Story School offers a smattering of practical tips on all the Instagram tools available to you, and it unfolds like a college degree in four parts: “freshman,” “sophomore,” “junior,” and “senior” years. Everyone in the audience graduates summa cum laude — after they’ve followed along step by step with their phones. This workshop covered how to make rainbow text, hack your iPhone’s “live photo” setting to make a boomerang, use different camera modes like rewind, and more.
“Instagram Stories is an important piece to success on Instagram, with more than half a billion people using Stories every single day,” said CJ Hernandez of Instagram news partnerships. “Stories School is meant to unlock new ideas and creativity on the platform by using best in class examples of content that’s resonating with audiences.”
Lila King and CJ Hernandez led this interactive workshop. “We invited Instagram editors to share a challenge they have with Instagram and workshopped their accounts in the room,” King said. “Five brave editors volunteered across a range of accounts — from local news to sports to a journalist networking group — and gave us a chance to share best practices and one-on-one advice in a public setting.”
Each volunteer connected their phone to a shared screen, displayed their Instagram feed, and asked hyper-specific questions. Watch the video above to learn when you should rewrite your Instagram bio, the best place to put an interactive sticker on an Instagram Story, and more. Above all, King and Hernandez encouraged people to think about their Instagram feeds like a résumé or a shop window.
Essential Facebook Hacks: How to Get More With Less
People helped answer each other’s questions in this highly interactive workshop led by Simren Bolaria and Dara Levy, both partnerships managers on the Facebook Media Community Development team. Offering a streamlined approach to using Facebook’s many different tools more efficiently, Levy and Bolaria walked through how to grow audiences with Instagram, monetize with Facebook Instant Articles, and retain readership with Facebook Groups.
“It was amazing to see the audience sharing their own ‘hacks’ and telling each other about unique ways they’ve used Facebook tools to help grow their pages or simplify posting workflows,” Levy said. “It was a really collaborative environment and great to see different publications working together to brainstorm new ideas for social.”
Advertising for News Publishers on Facebook
In this workshop, we shared examples of how news publishers across the U.S. have used Facebook’s advertising and business tools to drive traffic, generate business leads, and grow audiences. The session was led by Kwan Booth, Facebook help and education content strategist, and Tanya Robinette, Facebook content lead for business education.
“This is the first time our team has conducted an advertising session for news publishers, so we were eager to talk about our advertising tools and learn more about what this audience needs in regard to education,” Booth said. For more information, visit the Marketing for Publishers Blueprint page for a series of free online courses.
Debunked! How AFP and PolitiFact Use CrowdTangle to Track Misinformation
CrowdTangle, a tool that tracks engagement on social media, is increasingly vital for fact-checkers and political reporters. In this workshop, two fact-checkers shared how they use CrowdTangle in their day-to-day work: Marisha Goldhamer of AFP and Josie Hollingsworth of PolitiFact. At AFP, the team’s strategy includes using CrowdTangle to study reactions to trending satirical posts — if they see a mix of laughing and angry faces, for instance, a viral post might require a fact-check. PolitiFact’s editors get a CrowdTangle email digest every Monday to review presidential candidates’ most popular social media posts; they review the politicians’ claims and choose items to fact-check. And there are many more examples in the full video recording of the workshop, above.
“This was a real masterclass,” said Christopher Miles, CrowdTangle strategic partner manager, who led the workshop. “The CrowdTangle team is committed to helping journalists debunk misinformation and add more transparency to the news ecosystem. This workshop was an opportunity to see the nuts and bolts of that critical process.” To learn more about Facebook’s role in that process, read our Q&As with our third-party fact-checking partners. For more information on how to use CrowdTangle for fact-checking, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Empowering a Culture of Innovation in Your Newsroom
Rolling out new technology and tools that everyone in your newsroom will actually use is difficult, to say the least. Robin Monheit, CrowdTangle’s NORAM news partnerships lead, led a panel discussion on how to roll out tools like CrowdTangle in a newsroom.
“A key takeaway I was excited to discuss is this idea of empathy interviews with colleagues, which is a cornerstone of human-centered design thinking — our panelist Marie Gilot, director of professional development at CUNY, walked through the benefits of doing them, and exactly how to structure them,” Monheit said. “It’s really about taking the time to sit down with someone and get feedback on a training or new strategy, or whatever you might be trying to get someone to do. You will learn a lot, and potentially even change your strategy.
The other panelists were Caty Green from Chalkbeat, Kyle Rickhoff from Lee Enterprises, and Rachel Snody from Sinclair, “who are such experts in this,” Monheit added. “I’m so glad they were able to share some of their best practices and tips on technology rollouts and tool adoption with the ONA crowd. Questions during the workshop were also great — it was fun to get really in the weeds around things like who should send a kick off email: the CEO or the person running the program?” (Answer: The best case would be to do a combo of both. Have the CEO do the set up, or have them reply all afterward to emphasize their support and what is expected.) Visit this page for more info.
Tool Fatigue Is Real: How to Blend Newsroom Tools to Make Your Work Life Easier
This workshop began with an audience poll: When you get into work and start your day, how many different platforms do you open on a daily basis? Most people in the room said five, others said 12. “Nothing does everything, but everything that you open every day does something in a newsroom,” said Samantha Bennet, who oversees CrowdTangle’s strategic partner development for local news. She asked the panelists how they use CrowdTangle with other tools to avoid burnout. They were Kelsey Arendt, senior data analyst at Parsely; Kim Wilson, CEO of Social News Desk; and Penny Riordan, director of digital audience at Gatehouse Media.
“Our panelists are strong female leaders in the industry, and I think we provided a lot of useful feedback to everyone who attended,” Bennet said. “Hosting this workshop let us remind publishers that yes, we want your feedback on CrowdTangle and the tools you use. It’s important for us to do better work — don’t be shy.”
Who Says Local News Can’t Grow? How Bridge Magazine Hit Triple-Digit Growth in One Year
In local news, small can truly be mighty. This session, a case study on readership and reader revenue growth at Michigan’s Bridge Magazine, was led by the site’s growth strategist Bill Emkow. He shared tactics that news publishers can use for nearly immediate results.
“Bridge is proving that you can be local, high-quality, and sustainable, and they’re an inspiration to all of us working to find sustainable models for meaningful journalism,” said David Grant, program manager of the Facebook Accelerator Program. “You come to ONA to get inspired, to learn the right tactics and strategies to do better the day you get home, and to meet people who will help you get better in the future. This session gave attendees all three, and we can’t wait to see how publishers put what they learned to work back in their newsrooms.”