The Stacker Newswire: how we deliver stories to over 2,000 newsrooms
On any given day, Stacker journalism is delivered to more than 2,000 newsrooms across North America ranging from large metropolitan papers and small-town broadcasters to university newsrooms and local tourism boards.
The systems required to accommodate such a diverse and widespread publishing network are complex. But our approach ensures the user experience is as simple and malleable as possible in order to successfully deliver the newswire to our partner newsrooms. This post will reflect on the methods we’ve employed to create the world’s most accessible newswire.
Stacker’s newswire is built to promote accessibility to quality journalism, enabling news organizations to sustainably grow their audiences and better resource their own storytelling efforts. We deliver over 200 data-driven features each month, along with a growing library of evergreen stories, localized series, and data packages—all freely available to our news partners.
The newswire and its supporting technology are built upon two foundational principles:
1. We will act with empathy toward our partner newsrooms, ensuring our content is accessible to all. About eight years ago, I visited a newsroom in the Midwest whose parent company had recently merged with another large media group. In speaking with one digital producer, he told me that to do his job he worked in six different content management systems each day. There was a digital CMS, a print CMS, tools from parent company #1, tools from parent company #2, and two others I can’t even recall. That extreme example is illustrative that there is no typical workflow across news organizations—and it would be virtually impossible to expect every newsroom to adapt to your preferred workflow.
Whether it’s a large media organization with an extremely complex workflow, or a small nonprofit newsroom just getting off the ground, our product philosophy accounts for all types of users, ensuring any journalist can easily publish a Stacker story.
We understand the needs and challenges of small, independent newsrooms like the Auburn Examiner but we're also able to scale with large media organizations like Nexstar.
2. The ‘product’ is not just the content or the technology: It’s the entire experience. I agree with David Cohn that the overall “package” of articles is the product. Stacker’s mission is to empower publishers, and our core user is the digital editor, audience engagement editor, or reporter in a newsroom. As a B2B organization, we need to think differently than most journalists. While we of course care about how our journalism serves the end reader, our top priority is to support and empower the journalists syndicating and reporting on that content.
The overall “package” of the newswire includes:
- Unimpeachable journalism: We deliver data-driven, evergreen stories that are rooted in fact and keep readers engaged and curious. Our editorial standards and commitment to quality are how we develop trust with our partner newsrooms.
- Product experience: We make it simple to work with us, giving newsrooms multiple options on how to receive content. We save newsrooms time by plugging directly into their workflow.
- Value and results: Stacker content has proven successful in acquiring new subscribers, keeping users on-site longer, and adding context to the most important stories of the day.
So how does it happen? How do Stacker stories get from our newsroom to yours? Let’s take a tour through Stacker’s News Distribution Suite.
CONTENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
The journey begins with Stacker’s homegrown content management system, built on Drupal. You can read all about our Story Stack in a previous blog post.
The most popular way to access Stacker content is through our RSS feeds. Feeds deliver content straight into our partners’ CMS where they can then route stories based on location or category. Stories can be auto-published or delivered to a draft folder for future editing, curation, and promotion.
To make it easier for a wide range of newsrooms, we deliver RSS feeds in three different formats:
And for partners that might not want to ingest a full firehose, we can easily customize feeds to include segments based on seven topical areas, 50 states, and 384 metropolitan areas.
We know that some publishers prefer not to ingest feeds into their CMS or they just want a backup option. That’s where Stacker’s proprietary Story Hub comes into play.
Built upon the same Drupal foundation as our CMS, Story Hub contains an archive of thousands of easily-accessible stories. Timely content is pushed to the top of the page, highlighting major national events that Stacker stories can add context to.
Stories can be filtered based on your beat or your location. So if you’re a beat reporter in Pocatello, ID you can quickly access our latest stories with two clicks.
Story Hub also operates as “mission control” for Stacker, capturing preferences and using those attributes to tailor the rest of your experience.
Regardless of whether you receive Stacker content via RSS feed, Story Hub, or both, partners have access to additional shared services as part of the News Distribution Suite:
- Stacker Story Alerts: Stacker Story Alerts arrive in journalists’ inboxes every morning using a system we built to deliver a tailored digest of stories that matches a user’s state, metro, and beat. Using pre-formed templates, our editors can also send out breaking news alerts to help partners cover major events.
- Stacker Editorial Planner: Stacker plans coverage four to eight weeks out so it’s early enough to inform our partners’ own coverage calendars. The Stacker Editorial Planner ties directly into our internal scheduling and resource management tools and allows partners a peek into our planning. We will always notify partners of breaking news coverage whether we are covering it day-of or in the days immediately following.
- Stacker Shovel: Most newswires apply a “spray and pray” approach, sending stories out to their networks without an ability to measure performance. Stacker’s proprietary Shovel tool contains millions of impressions that identify when and where a story has been viewed on our partner websites. (It’s important to note that no personally identifiable information is ever collected.) The benefits here are two-fold. First, Stacker can take a data-driven approach to our content strategy, understanding which stories are most popular with our partners and with their readers. Second, we have a unique bird’s eye view of the trends across thousands of publishers. With some advanced data analysis, we’re able to provide regular intelligence and trend reports back to our publishing network.
Stacker’s distribution capabilities have grown considerably and will only continue to expand. But with that growth, we will stay true to our values—ensuring a seamless product experience so that our journalism is accessible to all.
We invite you to learn more about the Stacker Publishing Network, and feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Editor's note: A big thank you to Nathan Dentzau & Associates, Kevin Marion, and all our publishing partners for their work and feedback developing our News Distribution Suite.