How the sources for story ideas change for a niche news site through three years

In three years at Technically Philly, I’ve noted a change in the sources that bring me the ideas for the stories I do. It made me think if it’s a trend that other niche media follow.

In order to develop a baseline, I did some estimating and created some crude graphs roughly looking at where my story ideas have come from in each of the first three years of operation.

In late 2009, I was interested in projecting out what types of content a hyperlocal news site might aspire to have, and this feels like a sensible follow up. I should be clear, of course, that these numbers are entirely made up, based on nothing more than a brief perusal of archives and memory.

In short, the two biggest trends I feel have happened are that (a) we rely considerably less on other media than we did when we started and (b) many, many more people reach out to us directly than in the beginning. OK, that may seem obvious.

Perhaps more interesting is my overall assessment that, despite what I might want to believe, relatively few stories are based purely on a hunch, a thesis or an idea of mine. They happen — and I’m proud when they do — but, like journalists have always been, my role is still more to give context and connect dots.

Find the graphs and breakdowns below.

Year One: 2009

Email pitches and press releases: 10 percent

Following up on social media: 10 percent

Other publications: 30 percent

In-person pitches and events: 20 percent

Original ideas: 5 percent

Followup: <1 percent

Outreach to new people: 25 percent

Year Two: 2010

Email pitches and press releases: 15 percent

Following up on social media: 15 percent

Other publications: 20 percent

In-person pitches and events: 20 percent

Original ideas: 5 percent

Followup: 5 percent

Outreach to new people: 20 percent

Year Three: 2011

Email pitches and press releases: 30 percent

Following up on social media: 15 percent

Other publications: 10 percent

In-person pitches and events: 20 percent

Original ideas: 10 percent

Followup: 5 percent

Outreach to new people: 10 percent