St. Louis Post-Dispatch makes newspaper interactive during Cardinals postseason run

Who said newspapers didn’t offer opportunities for interactivity with the readership?

Following a deciding Game 5 win by the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS on Wednesday night, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch took advantage of the city’s postseason fever to jumpstart engagement on its Facebook page. Just after the Cardinals sealed a 6-1 victory, a question appeared on the page: “Okay, Facebook fans, tell us by 10:15 what the BIG Cardinals headline in Thursday’s Post-Dispatch should say?

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After 690+ likes, 20+ shares and 1,000+ comments, the P-D settled on a headline: “The ‘Wright Stuff” — a nod to starting pitcher Adam Wainwright, who pitched a complete game gem against the Pittsburgh Pirates for the victory.

The engagement didn’t stop there. The Post-Dispatch wisely posted a preview of the front page with an explanation of which headline was selected. That post netted another 1800+ likes and 250+ shares. Finally, a cover photo illustrating Wainwright’s celebration on the mound tallied another 2000+ likes and 200+ shares.

This is a very smart idea for a few reasons:

  1. It connects the core newspaper product with the P-D’s digital audience. For those who aren’t subscribers, they’re more likely to purchase the next morning’s paper (if owning a memorable front page wasn’t incentive enough).
  2. It’s just plain cool. I lived in St. Louis during the 2011 postseason run, and I’ve been a lifelong Cardinals fan, so I know how much the city loves its baseball team. The P-D offers plenty of stories and videos for the rabid Cardinals fan base, so it only makes sense to find other ways to drive conversation around the Redbirds’ success.
  3. Engagement—meaning likes, comments and shares—is crazy important for Facebook pages. If companies post content to Facebook pages that do not receive such engagement, then Facebook’s algorithm penalizes those pages by making their content less likely to appear in a given user’s future News Feed. This is all outlined in a Facebook blog about News Feed. By boosting their engagement numbers with these posts, the P-D’s future posts are more likely to appear in its Facebook audience’s News Feeds.

For comparison, most of the recent non-Cardinals Facebook posts netted far fewer than 100 likes (with only a handful of shares and comments). The reason? Much of the content produced by newspaper companies isn’t inherently ‘likeable’ or ‘shareable’ (for example, why would I want to like this story about a Dalmation being euthanized?). This shows you just how important it is to take advantage of high-engagement opportunities when you have them.

It looks like the P-D intends to continue with this idea for the rest of the postseason. One of the page managers posted, “We’ll have 8 more chances to do this, folks, so let’s have some fun!” 

And for a look at the final product, I’ve included a picture below:

The Oct. 10, 2013 front page of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch features a headline that was selected through a Facebook question. It's an interesting way to encourage interaction on the newspaper's social media account.

The Oct. 10, 2013 front page of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch features a headline that was selected through a Facebook question. It’s an interesting way to encourage interaction on the newspaper’s social media account.

Ryan Martin is a public safety reporter at The Indianapolis Star. He previously worked as managing editor of The Elkhart Truth in northern Indiana and associate regional editor of Patch.com in St. Louis.

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