Strategy and trends

Why “16 Reasons You’re a Disney Princess” will lose in the long run

OK, maybe that hedline is a bit ambitious. As long as there are aging Millennials with an internet connection, Disney princess lists will always get a few (hundred) thousand clicks.

But that’s not why we’re here.

An effort by the Charlotte Observer caught my eye last week — or rather, an article on Neimen Lab did. Basically, the Observer is trying to capture a younger audience’s interest in local news by transforming that news into more digestible presentations, aimed at the mobile audience. It’s called Charlotte Five.

One of the ways it looks like they’re doing it is through local lists, which happens to be a significant initiative for GateHouse newsrooms in 2015.

The listicles we all think of are typically entertainment-based — the “fun” stuff that doesn’t deal with real issues. Giving those fun lists a local spin is great, and we encourage our newsrooms to write those. But more serious topics can resonate just as well.

Creating local lists on serious topics can be engaging, newsworthy and deeply informative — all adjectives most hardened editors would love using to describe their 1,000-plus word investigative stories.

Here’s the example Joseph Lichterman points out in his neimanlab.org post:

“For example, when last week a group of Charlotte private and civic organizations pledged $11 million to eradicate chronic homelessness in Mecklenburg County, where Charlotte’s located, by 2016, the Observer covered the announcement with a 1,200-word news story and an editorial supporting the plan on the opinion page.

Charlotte Five, meanwhile, published ‘8 sobering stats about Charlotte’s homeless problem,’ linking back to the original Observer news story while also embedding tweets and including additional facts.”

It’s a bit of a non-traditional list. They basically took what looks like a “by the numbers” breakout and listed each statistic, pulling in tweets and a few photos. But it’s the same basic premise.

A local list can easily be “10 local burgers you need to try” or “12 great moments in (local football team’s) history.” That’s great, local content as well. But lists can also be rich mediums for local news, providing readers need-to-know information — maybe new readers, at that.

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