07 Sep 2021

A Small Newsroom Used AI To Drive 1,400 Visitors in 21 Minutes

We have done a lot of research and reporting on how audiences find and respond to auto-published high school sports reporting. In most of that work, we’ve focused on individual assets like this one, published in our founding newsroom at Richland Source in Central Ohio. Here’s a link to our case study from 2020-21.

But what if you’re using Lede AI, but not auto-publishing yet?

Clients who don’t auto-publish usually take advantage of our formatted HTML sports wrap-up. We developed this product to create daily, comprehensive high school sports coverage that editors could quickly turn into a roundup-style asset. And we built it to be publishable in just minutes.

Last week, we measured the performance of that product in two small Ohio markets served by Richland Source.

The testing environment

  • We built specific regional coverage territories for two websites in two markets. Mansfield and Mount Vernon, Ohio. These are small cities of less than 50k population and largely rural.

  • We used Lede AI to cover their markets and… reached out into adjacent markets beyond the practical reach of human reporters in these tiny newsrooms.

  • The coverage was generated at 11:00 pm Friday night, but not published until around 12:00 noon on Saturday.

  • In both markets, editors did an organic post to their Facebook pages.

  • Here’s the asset for Mansfield, and this is the asset for Mount Vernon.

How much time did it take?

Time was the first factor we measured. The same employee built and published both assets. The total time spent was 21 minutes. 49 games were covered by the two assets. The editor made no edits to the coverage, but did add feature art from that night’s game coverage and wrote a keyword-rich intro paragraph to help with SEO.

A regional high school football wrap-up from all over central Ohio. Look to Knox Pages for sports results from Knox, Ashland, Morrow, Licking, Delaware, Richland, and Franklin counties. For feature coverage from this week, check out our sports section.

How many visitors did your AI coverage drive?

The results were pretty good, especially considering that we waited until Saturday at noon to publish.

The combined assets drove 1,492 page views. 1,408 of those were unique. Maybe most significant was that 611, or 41% of the total entered the site at the AI generated asset.

Time on page was right around 3 minutes, which was upwards of 300% higher than normal.

Where did the visitors come from?

Organic SEO, direct traffic, and referrals through Newsbreak crushed. Less than 10% of referrals came from social media channels. Screenshots of both sites are below.

User geography was principally in-market, but deeper dives into Google Analytics city data showed a wide variety of locations from adjacent markets with most of that traffic coming via organic SEO.

What are the takeaways?

There’s real value to be had with roundup assets as substitutes for (or supplements to) auto-publishing. In 21 minutes, these newsrooms…

  • Covered 49 high school football games. Something they would never have been able to do without help from artificial intelligence.

  • Delivered valuable, sharable reporting that can be easily amplified via their social channels and email newsletters.

  • Now have a content verticals (high school sports digests) that can be sponsored through local advertising.

Traffic summary with source / medium from Richland Source in Mansfield, Ohio.
Traffic summary with source / medium from Knox Pages in Mount Vernon, Ohio.


Recent Posts

09 Sep 2023
Associated Press collabs with Lede AI to launch Knight-funded AI tool to automate police report production

A months-long collaborative AI development project between Lede AI and the Associated Press finally saw the light of day in …

Read More
14 Jun 2023
Scoring Big with AI: Analyzing the Explosive Growth of High School Sports Reporting at Richland Source

The results from the 2022-2023 high school sports season are in, and they’re clear as can be. In every metric, …

Read More
09 Mar 2023
Lee Enterprises Uses Lede AI to Publish Thousands of Game Summaries in a Dozen Markets

Nobody was talking about Chat GPT when Lee Enterprises automated a part of their high school sports reporting with Lede …

Read More

Journalism & Robots

Sign up for our monthly newsletter for the 5 things you need to read to stay on top of AI and local news.