For local non-profit news organizations, figuring out how to capture and keep an audience of interested readers can prove challenging. The Digiwatchdog team conducted some research in the past couple of weeks to figure out ways that the Chicago Reporter can attract more readers.
One source for ideas is the St. Louis Beacon, an online-only publication that aims to give readers news that matters and a place to thoughtfully discuss it, according to the site’s mission statement. I spoke to Beacon editor and founder Margaret Freivogel about how her site maintains and builds an audience. For Freivogel and her staff, keeping readers interested is as much (if not more) about forming connections in-person as it is about online outreach efforts.
The Beacon hosts regular community gatherings, including Barroom Conversations and monthly Beacon and Eggs meetings. Readers and other St. Louis residents have the opportunity to discuss local issues as well as get to know each other and the Beacon staff members at these events.
“We think of ourselves as having two pillars,” Freivogel said. “One is great journalism. The other is quality engagement with people. It definitely gives us a kind of deeper relationship with people when we can meet them in person.”
The brains behind the Beacon also get valuable feedback from face-to-face interactions with their readers, Freivogel said. They learn what people think of specific stories and the reporting in general.
Although the Beacon is published exclusively online, Freivogel and her colleagues show that offline, in-person relationships have considerable value when it comes to attracting and keeping readers.