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Another guest post from the Newswhip blog.

How the nation now team finds stories at USA Today

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Another guest post from the Newswhip blog.

Holly Moore is an editor at Nation Now, a new USA Today project to provide national news coverage to Gannett Media’s local outlets across the US. We chatted to her about working in a digital newsroom and how the team uses different tools and methods to find great stories for their readers.

According to Holly, Nation Now is an effort to pick up “whatever falls between the cracks” of USA Today’s national news coverage. The Nation Now team curates national news from a central location in the USA Today newsroom. Holly explains that reporters on the Nation Now team don’t have specific beats assigned to them, tasked instead with a wide remit to “cover the whole internet”.

For Holly, staying informed at all times is key to making sure that Nation Now stays on top of their brief. The team’s daily workflow reflects this.

An editor monitors potential stories from 6am every morning, working off Spike Alerts and other overnight tips to find stories to cover that day. Editors assign stories to reporters, who are busy working the phones throughout the day. There are seven staff on the Nation Now team, and they produce a wide range of stories every day, from float therapy for babies to hard-hitting reports on drug use.

Reporters will start to arrive from 7am. While USA Today’s traditional editorial meetings kick off at 8.30am around a circular table known as ‘the Hub’, in the middle of the newsroom, Nation Now’s agenda is more flowing.

To get the lay of the land, Holly checks Facebook and Twitter trends to see which of their stories are performing strongest that morning. Such trends may impact editorial strategy for the rest of the day.

The team are constantly monitoring social media to see if they can tweak their headlines or ledes for optimal social success.

One of those tools they use is Spike. “Spike is really integral in what we do,” says Holly. They use the time filters to see what the biggest stories of the day are on Facebook and Twitter. Holly finds the 12 hour view most useful for catching those big stories.

To help stay informed, Holly and the Nation Now team are also heavy users of Spike Alerts, which can be set up to deliver the world’s most trending stories straight to subscribers’ inboxes up to every half hour throughout the day. Along with general categories and regions, Holly sometimes uses keyword-based Spike Alerts to stay on top of developing news stories. “I try to be aware of what’s happening at all times. I roll over and check my phone in the morning. I check Spike Alerts first thing…We get straight into it.”

The Nation Now team show how data and analytics are being put to use in some of the world’s biggest newsrooms. They regularly check Facebook and Twitter trends to see how their content is performing throughout the day.SimpleReach is used to check how stories from the Gannett Group’s 50 or so local news sites are performing, relevant to their size. “If they’re doing well in a local market, we’ll pick them up,” says Holly.

The Nation Now team are very focussed on ensuring that they learn from what they do on social media. They set goals to try and outperform competitors. Given that the battle for readers now takes place on timelines, audience development is more quantifiable than ever.

Aside from sourcing their next viral hit, Holly says that the team also see Spike as a sort of educational tool, which allows them to better understand how to make sure their stories have maximum impact on Facebook and Twitter.

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