In the world of local news, there exist somewhat hidden networks of information sharing designed to fuel the 24/7 news cycle. Tapping into them is easier than you think, and offers tremendous link building rewards.
We’re talking about the amplification of coverage: syndication turns one media placement into dozens, sometimes hundreds, of placements online.
For link building digital marketers, local news syndication offers valuable links back to your original content, without spending hours on outreach.
Local news functions, essentially, like a hub-and-spoke. Individual publications and stations gather and investigate stories in their local communities. They then publish the stories online, in print, or on-air before feeding that information to a central hub.
This model effectively disperses information across the country, generating fresh content for local audiences, without any of the extra leg work.
Let’s see what this looks like in real life:
We earned an inbound media placement on The Fayetteville Observer‘s digital platform for one of our client’s content campaigns. That same placement appeared, syndicated, on 52 other newspaper platforms within the same network.
Not too shabby, right?
Let’s try another example. In a separate content marketing campaign, we earned a link to our client on Florida Today’s digital platform. That article syndicated to 169 other newspapers, because Florida Today is part of the USA Today network,
The short answer to this question is “yes.”
The long answer to this question is “yes, but syndicated links are less valuable than a unique linking placement.” In most instances, local news syndication is marked in the page source with a “rel=canonical.” This tag informs search engines that the syndication is a copy. It also helps your website reap the SEO benefits to the original source page’s Domain Authority.
If there’s no rel=canonical tag, local news syndication typically includes a direct link to the original article. Despite being found on duplicated content pages, direct links signal to search engines that your site is the original source. In doing so they pass along the value and reputation of the site you’re mentioned on. The benefit of syndicating on local news websites is that, in most cases, the Domain Authorities are pretty high.
While syndicated links carry less SEO value than a unique placement, 169 linking placements are a lot better than one.
When you hear local news coverage, what do you think of? Live reporters at breaking news scenes, or a feature report on a new business opening? But within every broadcast and newspaper there exists “filler” content: new studies, reports, viral news, etc.
Sometimes local news coverage consists of an anchor-read script in a newscast. Other times, local news coverage fuels a reporter’s nightly report. It can also consist of a newspaper citation, or an on-air mention by a radio DJ.
Virtually every time, the syndicating site republishes your content with an inbound link to the original source.
This type of content is so successful with local news because it caters towards the public’s general interest. We’ve talked about newsworthiness before — the eight values that journalists look for when finding stories to cover. Producing newsworthy content is more intuitive than you may realize.
The content we help our clients create meets the thresholds for local newsworthiness. It’s timely, impactful, novel, and sometimes controversial.
As savvy news consumers, can easily recognize news-friendly headlines. They’re the ones that you see almost daily on social media feeds and news websites. The often start with phrases like…
The marketing industry often fails to understand the underlying structure of the ownership groups that control local newsrooms. This knowledge gap leads to missed opportunities for media outreach. By understanding the basics of corporate ownership and affiliate networks, you can understand how content gets shared across their digital platforms.
Local television, radio stations, and newspapers are the three main forms of local news.
Their primary goal is to deliver relevant, local-leading information to their target audiences. Which is why breaking news stories about community violence, severe weather, government ordinances all take precedent in local news coverage. But things are shifting, thanks to the internet.
For decades, local news was“local” for two main reasons:
You had to live within the broadcast signal’s radius to know what was happening in any given community. But with the internet…that’s no longer necessary. Now, anyone can view any local TV station or newspaper’s website and see the top stories.
To meet the constant demand for content, local news media often dedicates sections of their sites to “national” and “entertainment” stories. It’s a cultural shift ushered in with the digital age. People want information all the time, and they want it from all over.
It’s in these categories that content marketers can find space for their content!
With this rise in digital media, we’ve started to see a decrease in local ownership of local media. The news industry is primarily controlled by media conglomerates that share content to meet the public’s demand for information.
Now, ownership of local media falls into a few hands.
It’s simple: Fewer owners mean more widespread syndication networks. Which means the greater the chances your content has to be shared and syndicated across digital channels.
While there are more than 2,600 individual newspaper owners in the country, one-third are controlled by just 25 companies.
The resulting rise of non-local ownership has produced a new type of newsgathering and production. Now, newspapers owned by the same parent company function as syndication partners. They share stories to fill their own digital platforms, even if it’s not immediately local to their audiences.
This type of content sharing explains how an article that first appeared in Delaware Today, also appeared in The Desert Sun.
Local radio is often a hodge-podge of news and entertainment content. Many listeners fail to realize that news content isn’t just reserved for serious, “news talk” stations. Most local stations incorporate a combination of local and viral stories on-air during the course of their programming.
While sometimes this content is unique to the local station, it’s often syndicated content shared within a network.
Like newspapers and television stations, radio stations are competing for digital audiences as well. Syndicated content makes for great fodder for radio’s websites and social media feeds. High-click content attracts valuable ad dollars. How do you detect this syndicated radio content?
When you look at the radio stations’ websites, syndicated content is obvious to spot: same header image, same author, same headline.
Television stations’ content sharing occurs in two primary ways:
Local stations are traditionally “affiliated” with one of the four leading broadcast networks: ABC, NBC, CBS, or FOX. Network affiliation explains how people everywhere can view the same episode of Grey’s Anatomy, simply by tuning into an ABC affiliate on Thursday nights.
On the news sharing side of things, local affiliates have access to information gathered by other network affiliates across the country.
When breaking news happens in Miami, NBC can request the footage and information from its Miami affiliate. It then uploads that content to their network hub, making it accessible to other affiliates nationwide.
Local affiliates also have access to content produced on the national level. For example, if NBC Nightly News has an exclusive investigation, its affiliates have access to all the published content.
A new type of news sharing partnerships has emerged as corporate ownership groups amass more and more media.
Stations owned by the same parent company routinely share information and media assets group wide. According to a study by the Radio Television Digital News Association, 75% of local stations share content within an ownership group. Sometimes it’s just the web story, sometimes it’s just the video, and sometimes it’s an entire script (verbatim). Like in 2018, when affiliates of TV ownership group, Sinclair, read the exact same script on air on the same day.
We’ll stay away from the politics surrounding this particular viral video – but you get the idea. Imagine if this was your story, content, or visuals syndicating to thousands (sometimes millions) of TV-viewing households across the country.
This type of rapid-fire content sharing among affiliates is a potential gold mine for hungry link builders. Accessing this network can amplify your coverage, and put your content in front of wider audiences throughout the country.
How do you access these networks and amplify your content’s coverage? While there is no one, fool-proof strategy, there are a few simple tricks to find your way in:
Any individual publication or outlet can be a source of syndication. Some content comes straight from the ownership group. Most of the time, however, syndicated content starts as one article on one website.
If you understand ownership networks, you don’t need to pitch every media outlet within that network. Pick a handful of publications, pitch their general “news tips” email address and wait and see if you generate any interest.
Syndicated radio programs are a great place to start. Identify the program you want to coverage in, then spend your energy crafting a pitch tailored to them. Starting at the source offers more bang for your buck. Once you earn coverage by the hub, you’ll see the coverage amplify as it syndicates.
Another way to tap into these networks is to identify digital content producers at the corporate and local levels.
Many media conglomerates have content editors who flag and format syndicated articles specifically for the web. These virtual gatekeepers, when properly pitched, can be excellent doorways to syndication.
Similarly, when you’re pitching individual publications, don’t just reach out to their general news tip emails. Spend a little time finding the web producers and web content editors and pitch them as well.
Step 1: Look for content you want to emulate. Popular syndicated content tends to include headlines like “new study” or “new report.” Check out your own local TV station or newspaper’s website and look at what non-local stories are covered.
Step 2: With a quick Google search, you can see if that content is syndicating by looking for identical headlines.
Syndicated articles will typically have the same author mentioned in the byline. Take note of the author and the hub publication and when you start your own outreach, start with them.
Attributions and bylines like the one above appear on affiliate websites. “Ed Payne” from CNN didn’t specifically write the content for just that individual station. Instead, he wrote the article and assets, which then could be syndicated across every television owned by Gray News.
But just because you can tap into the network doesn’t assure your content will syndicate. Local news has a hearty appetite for great content. Whether it’s about their community, or relevant to their industry at large, it needs to be newsworthy.
The type of local content that syndicates tends to have broad appeal. It resonates with the general news audience, regardless of which city or state they live in. We’ve found that original research, consumer surveys, evergreen content, and data analyses play well with local news media.
Now, you can’t always predict when syndication will happen. However, you can make syndication more likely. All you need to do is create content the media wants to cover and find the entry points to these networks.