Some journalists responsible for digital content on Nexstar’s TV stations’ websites got a company-wide nod, thanks to Austin Kellerman, Nexstar’s director of digital content.
When people think of local TV news on television, faces of experienced anchors and meteorologists come to mind.
But an army of faceless journalists operating behind-the-scenes are leading the efforts on TV stations’ websites with content that drive page views and revenue.
In June, Austin Kellerman, Nexstar’s senior director of local content strategy, published a list of some of Nexstar’s digital content influencers who went above and beyond to improve their station’s offerings and performance.
Kellerman says for the past year he’s been sharing a list every month of the top authors who have the most page views each month.
But since those people are from Nexstar’s biggest markets, in June he wanted to highlight those who aren’t necessarily in the biggest markets, those he “thought deserved recognition that may have otherwise gone unseen in a company this big.”
To get on the list, you have to move the needle with stories that proved to be a big success on the station’s websites and beyond.
June’s list was compiled in part by Nexstar’s digital executive producers, who work with 10-15 stations in a region, know the staffs’ strengths and best writers in their group, Kellerman says.
In the East Coast region, the nod went to Ashlee Edwards, the digital executive producer at WHTM, Nexstar’s ABC affiliate in Harrisburg, Pa.
“Ashley is an interesting one because she has kind of moved up through that station,” Kellerman says. “Started as a graphic artist and then a web writer and worked her way into the digital EP or the top digital person inside that market.”
In naming Edwards, Kellerman wrote she was a “top-notch communicator who sends thorough, daily emails to her team in the quest of moving the needle on our KPIs (key performance indicators). Her team members regularly make the weekly East Coast top author report.”
Her team posts prolifically to WHTM’s website, significantly more than 100 stories a week, Edwards says.
A recent story about Pennsylvania’s electric prices increasing garnered more than 100,000 views.
“Our articles span the entire spectrum,” Edwards says. “We have local and state stories that we post and look for opportunities to take a national story and make it relevant for our users.”
Edwards says getting the recognition “meant a lot to me. It meant that my team is doing their job well.”
In the Northeast, Mariann Cabness at WWTI, Nexstar’s ABC affiliate in Watertown, N.Y., DMA 181, just 30 miles from the Canadian border, was recognized. The station has no news department, but she aggressively pursues audiences, building a team that has impressive coverage for a market their size, Kellerman says.
Cabness says what works in her market “is driving the community relations home. “The more we do for the community gets more eyeballs on our product,” she says.
Cabness says it was quite the surprise to find out she was recognized as one of Nexstar’s digital content influencers being in a market so small with no on-air news.
“That was probably the most surprising part of it all, that the stuff we do matters so much.”
Click here to read this story about Walmart limiting the number of customers in stores published last year during the pandemic.
It was Cabness’ top performing piece since she’s been at WWTI.
In Baton Rouge, La., NBC affiliate WVLA branded as Baton Rouge Proud, Michael Scheidt wrote a stimulus story that accounted for roughly 20% of stimulus-related page views across the group in June. He regularly looks to find an audience based on high-performing topics, Kellerman says.
Kellerman points to Scheidt’s stories about stimulus checks as content that can be shared across the Nexstar stations. “Any story we concoct can go national with all the stations and then they choose whether to do whatever they want with it,” Scheidt says.
Finding out that his digital team at WVLA got recognized by Kellerman, “feels good that people are watching what you do and it helps validate what I am doing,” Scheidt says.
Out on the plains in Sioux Falls, S.D, at KELO, Nexstar’s dual CBS-MyNetworkTV affiliate, Rae Yost’s in-depth, data-driven stories have generated more than 100,000 page views this month, Kellerman says.
“News is all about what impacts people’s lives, what are they interested in knowing,” Yost says, adding that she promotes her stories as much as possible “whether it’s our individual social media accounts or Facebook.”
Getting noticed for her team’s work “speaks to our leadership,” Yost says. “It’s nice to be singled out because it’s indicative of the quality we strive for all the time.”
Click here to read Yost’s story about it being abnormally dry in South Dakota, comparing it to Dust Bowl years in the past.
Down in the Southwest at KTAB, Nexstar’s CBS affiliate in Abilene, Texas, Joey Hollingsworth and his crew monitored developments in a cold case story. When a major update broke, Hollingsworth’s team had a story prepped, and published first in the market, making it the top story on the site for June, Kellerman says.
When an arrest was made in the cold case story, Hollingsworth had content ready to roll, and the story got a lot of views thanks to a push alert.
Getting a nod from Kellerman, “is pretty special,” Hollingsworth says.
Out west in Salt Lake City, Utah, at KTVX, Nexstar’s ABC affiliate, Austin Facer came up with an evergreen story about moving to Utah that turned out to be his station’s top story in June, Kellerman says.
Facer says many of his story ideas come from being a life-long resident of Utah, “understanding the vibe, the culture, things that are important to people around here,” Facer says.
“There are certain themes that pretty much all Utahans are interested in,” he adds.
Facer says his role is to create enterprise stories by researching a topic, calling sources, and writing up 650-700 word articles with embedded elements such as photos, social media posts, and video. He does about two or three a day.
On being recognized, Facer says, he was shocked “to tell you the truth. I felt really lucky to be working for Nexstar, at a place that feels like I have some inkling of talent and ability.”
In Green Bay at WFRV, Nexstar’s CBS affiliate, Devin Willems has a knack for finding local stories that no one else is covering, Kellerman says.
Kellerman says Willems found a trending story while digging through Reddit threads on Pride Month in the Green Bay area.
Willems says Reddit is a good place to look story ideas. “There is a lot of niche content there for anything that you like.”
Being named a top digital influencer was “reassurance that I am putting out content that is unique and local and successful.” Willems says.
At WKRN, Nexstar’s ABC affiliate in Nashville, Josh Breslow led the East Region in generating high traffic and page views per session high, the highest of the East’s most-read authors, Kellerman says.
Breslow could not be reached for comment.
Kellerman says focusing a light on the digital content influencers in the mid to smaller markets will continue every month.
“The feedback we got was great,” Kellerman says. “You have people who are working hard, but they wonder who all sees it beyond their station.”
Across the company, people see this as an opportunity, Kellerman says. “If I work hard, I can get noticed, and my name will get sent to upper management, GMs and all,” Kellerman says.
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