Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Choosing to Listen: How the Independent Journal Review Became One of the Fastest Growing News Sites

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Choosing to Listen: How the Independent Journal Review Became One of the Fastest Growing News Sites

Article excerpt

When Kate Bennett started her new role as a White House correspondent, she didn't file the same traditional stories you'd see in the pages of the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal.

One of her earliest pieces, titled "Everything I Learned My First Week as a White House Reporter," set the tone for her somewhat irreverent coverage of the White House, offering readers the ability to experience what it was like to be part of one of the most important news beats in the country.

So it goes at the Independent Journal Review (ijr.com), the online publisher you've probably never heard of that's quickly morphed from a conservative blog to one of the fastest growing news sites in the country by focusing on overlooked readers looking for a different style of news coverage.

"Our readers want to experience the news and read human stories," said Alex Skatell, a former Republican staffer and one of the founders of I JR. "They want us to show them the news, not tell them what they're supposed to think."

A prime example of this philosophy in action is a viral video made by IJReview's team staring then presidential candidate Lindsey Graham, who gleefully destroys his cell phone while "The Four Seasons" by Vivaldi plays in the background.

The one-minute video, released days after President Donald Tramp released Graham's private cell phone number, has been viewed more than 2.2 million times and offers a refreshing spin on the traditional interview. Instead of Graham describing how angry he was at Trump, he shows readers by destroying his phone in increasingly violent ways.

Another example of the site's philosophy was to ban the term "frontrunner" from stories covering the presidential primaries.

"Our readers don't trust institutions, so we didn't want to tell them who we thought was winning the race," Skatell said, noting that many media outlets covered the campaign as if they already knew who was going to win. "We wanted to take every candidate seriously, and let readers and voters decide who they liked best."

If traffic is any indication, readers are responding to IJ Review's "show me" approach. The site, which will celebrate its fifth anniversary this year, currently averages about 30 million unique visitors a month. In addition, its daily opt-in newsletter has over a million subscribers, helping IJ Review to diversify traffic profile and limit its dependence on any one source, such as Facebook.

Speaking of the social media giant, according to News Whip, a site that tracks social sharing, IJ Review recorded more than 13 million Facebook Interactions on 1,347 articles last August, placing it among the top 25 English language publishers on Facebook that month. Compare those numbers to USA Today, which needed nearly 10 times more stories (10,780) to obtain a similar number of interactions (10.5 million) on the social media site.

Aside from the content itself, a large part of IJ Review's success in regularly creating an increasing amount of inbound traffic is attributed to the emphasis placed on engaging headlines. It's part of a four-part content creation process the site has developed and monitors using the fast-growing work-tracking tool Asana: content selection, creation, analysis and distribution.

A recent headline showcases their overall content strategy at its most effective: "President Obama's Last Tweet to Michelle is One of The Most Explosive in History--And For Good Reason."

It's a headline that shows the site understands its center-right readers and their interest in family values, all while enticing them by hinting (and delivering) at payoff worth reading about. …

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