How to use data to extend a story’s life

By: David Arkin
April 18, 2024
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It’s very natural for reporters to cover a story, write it, post it and move on to the next one.

But as famed ESPN college football commentator Lee Corso would say, “not so fast my friend.”

Beat writers often have a long list of stories they want to get to, but to stick with a story for another day or more, often has to mean that it’s a huge story.

But sticking with stories even when they aren’t the blockbuster of the year, can be worth it. It takes editorial teams understanding and using data and newsroom leaders asking what more their teams can or should do with a story.

This works across the board, from newspapers and television stations to city and parenting magazines. Let me tell you how.

1. Identify the story

Years ago, when we didn’t have the data we have today, doing second-day stories would typically be based around a big breaking news story from the day before. A fire would break out downtown and the next day you would write about the history of the building or the impact on the business community, as an example.

But today that has changed. Sometimes, yes, it is a breaking news story that we should seek a second-day story to, but we also can see more lifestyle-oriented topics (things to do, education content) shoot to the top of Chartbeat triggering questions on what more an editorial team should do with that story or topic.

Your analytics can be a great guide, but search and keyword tools can as well. Google Search Trends, for example, can tell you what specific queries your readers may be looking at around a story that took off. That can guide what kind of second-day or third-day stories to do.

I love keyword tools that actually tell you the questions that readers are typing into search about that topic as an indicator on what to write about. But I also have found that simply typing those words in your Google search bar and seeing what drops down can also be an easy way to uncover what to go after.

2. Here’s a real world example

When it comes to extending a story, the opportunities with news and specifically, crime-oriented content, are never ending.

Just this week, I was reviewing data with a client during a morning digital meeting and we could see that an unusual crime story really took off the day prior. An editor mentioned how many people were talking about that story in the newsroom and community.

There wasn’t a ton of new information with the story but there were some unanswered questions, so someone on the digital team put together a 5 questions Q&A that helped readers understand how it happened, more about who the person was and what was next in the case. That story made the Top 10 most viewed stories the next day.

With crime stories, a great second-day story for digital is always looking at the background of the person or the company or organization involved. Think of it like a mini profile.

3. This works for lifestyle content, too

While magazines may not be tracking down a crime story, they do have opportunities to use data to guide their popular content.

Earlier this month, I was reviewing analytics (yes, I do this a lot!) with a magazine client and discovered just how popular their education ranking stories were with their audience. (Top 10 elementary schools in a specific city)

These are stories using data from Niche, which aggregates a host of sources to build rankings of the best schools and places to live.

We decided based on what we saw, that doing more content around certain education niches and lists would be an effective strategy. So we agreed to double the number of education lists they are now doing each month.

As a sidenote, I am seeing an incredible amount of engagement across a variety of publishers I am working with right now with this kind of education content. It’s worth acting on.

Extending popular content also works well for food lists. Take that popular list on best pizza places in your main city and build anchor stories in either suburbs or around the state of that same content and watch your numbers skyrocket.

So how do you move forward?

You can’t expect to have all of this happen overnight. You need to have the data, the tools (a keyword research tool), a structure to meet and leaders to help guide this process. We work with lots of publishers to help them down this path. The results can be rewarding. Email me at or text me at 832 407 0188 to find out how I can help you today.

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