Week 1 is in the books. How did Ohio's Richland Source do?

Week 1 of the Ohio high school football season is in the books. We serve newsrooms around the country, but have some special x-ray vision into the one where Lede Ai was developed, Richland Source in Mansfield, Ohio. We pulled our own analytics from the first weekend. Here’s how it went.

The playing field

Measured from August 27 - Sept 2 (to give a sense of the curve)

Isolated for sports traffic only, the vast majority is high school football.

Richland Source covers a three county market in North Central Ohio using a combination of traditional reporting and Lede Ai, and then covers the entire state using Lede Ai.

In market coverage = Luke Skywalker + R2D2 and yes, they work well together.

The Source mobilized their small newsroom of six for kickoff weekend and baked Lede Ai into the plans. The combination allowed them to provide feature coverage for 12 games in three markets. How did they do it?

I’m as competitive as the players on the field. Lede Ai gives me a competitive advantage that no one else has and I want to use it.
— Larry Phillips, Richland Source Editor

First, they maximized the human resources by putting their experienced sports reporters in the press box at 6 key games. The rest of the staff fanned out to get pictures at games where there was no reporter.

Where those two options didn’t work, editors had made arrangements to take contributed photos or use file photos. Here’s how it totaled out.

  • 12 games covered

  • 6 traditional feature coverage.

  • 6 games covered by Lede Ai

  • All 12 games had at least one photo

    • 9 came from full time or freelance staff

    • 2 were submitted by fans

    • 1 was file art

Larry Phillips, the leader of this rebel alliance, is pretty direct about it. “I’m as competitive as the players on the field. Lede Ai gives me a competitive advantage that no one else has and I want to use it. Is it going to win a Pulitzer? No. Does it allow us to provide valuable information to our readers faster than anyone else? Yes, and that’s our job.”

Out of market traffic, Lede Ai goes it alone

Lede Ai - which is powered by data from ScoreStream - provided game coverage for over 200 high school football games that were out of market on Friday night. Games like this one from over 120 miles away. The coverage was automatic, delivered without any human intervention, and published at 10:46 p.m., which was faster than anywhere else.

That’s great, how was the traffic?

Richland Source Google Analytics data for their sports section for week one of Ohio high school football season.

Richland Source Google Analytics data for their sports section for week one of Ohio high school football season.

Pretty good, thank you. Overall, the sports section of Richland Source saw pageviews climb 123% to 133,253. Unique pageviews jumped 55% to 24,730 over the same period in the previous year.

And here’s where it gets interesting: Those out-of-market Lede Ai stories with no art and no human intervention accounted for 39% of all of the football traffic in the same time period.

In other words, Luke Skywalker was still piloting his X-Wing, but R2D2 had his back. And together, they won the day.


Google analytics data from week one for Richland Source

Out-of-market high school sports coverage, powered by Lede Ai

Three tips to bring a crowd to Lede Ai's crowdsourced data

Lede Ai partners with ScoreStream for the fan-driven real time data we use to power our high school sports briefs. On any given week, ScoreStream has reliable, vetted data on over 90% of all the games played in the United States. Multiple firewalls are built in to ensure that the date we access and the stories written by Lede Ai are accurate.

Through ScoreStream, Lede Ai leverages powerful tools and algorithms built around verifying score information from users. Power users out-rank less experienced users when a conflict over score arises. Troublemakers are given blackball status rendering them effectively null throughout the system.

But all that being said, the more users the merrier. Here’s three tips to engage with your readers and grow usage in your coverage area, which makes your coverage more complete and valuable.

  1. Work with the booster clubs / AD's to have a standard announcement from the press box / table read over the PA system that reminds fans to follow the game on Scorestream and update the scores to "help our friends in local media power their coverage." In some cases they just do it. In others you may have to work a trade.

  2. Use Canva to whip up some fliers for school cafeterias / bulletin boards / locker rooms. "Help [Your Super Awesome Local News Company] power coverage of our school's athletics by using Scorestream to update the games you attend." This is super easy to do and builds goodwill.

  3. And this is the easiest. Work with our team to code in a line at the end of every article that encourages the reader to sign up and participate.

    • "This coverage was powered by Scorestream, the leader in fan-driven sports coverage. Download the app <with a link> to be part of the action and make sure your team is covered."

NiemanLab: Why Richland Source built a system for automating high school sports articles (and stopped selling apparel)

“This covers the nuts and bolts of what the reader expects from their local news outlet. This frees people up to do more involved journalism, more of things they got into the business to do,” Managing Editor, Larry Phillips said.

Sports Techie: Lede Ai, Scorestream Partner to Write Automated High School Sports Stories

Sports Techie: Lede Ai, Scorestream Partner to Write Automated High School Sports Stories

Covering high school sports is an ultimate example of local journalism, and coverage has waned in locations where there aren’t the reporting resources to staff events. Lede Ai usually charged $4 per story created, and appears to be a scalable, budget-friendly solution.

Lede Ai goes live with newsroom artificial intelligence, built in a newsroom

MANSFIELD, Ohio – Journalists can unite behind at least one theme, they were told there would be no math -- or at least very little of it.

One can understand the angst. The financial math has been bad for the business of journalism, really bad, for a really long time. Collapsing ad revenue and shrinking newsrooms have led to a situation so bad in some areas that a term had to be invented to describe it: “news deserts.” Nowhere is this situation worse than in small to mid-sized local newsrooms.  

Two companies in Mansfield, Ohio have invented a tool that fixes this problem, and it’s targeted at newsrooms that need it most.

Richland Source, a leader in local news innovation and Abundat, an artificial intelligence solutions company, have collaborated on an artificial intelligence project called Lede Ai that produces local sports coverage at scale. The two companies partnered with Scorestream, the world’s leader in fan-driven high school sports results to deliver the data that powers the writing. It’s an innovation that’s coming from the bottom-up, designed in a newsroom to fit its coverage needs.

Lede Ai writes and publishes high school sports stories at scale immediately after the games end. The project has eight months under its belt, providing statewide coverage of various Ohio high school sports for Richland Source. In addition, Lede Ai published in closed beta for seven news organizations across the nation.

“The stories we produce through Lede Ai are focused on what people are searching for in the minutes after a game ends, which is the result. We deliver a concise, readable summary faster than anyone else,” says Larry Phillips, Managing Editor of Richland Source. “It’s a search-based product that evolved out of the most basic question, ‘Who won that game?’”

Beta testing began in late August 2018. After six months Richland Source had covered more than 18,000 games from all over Ohio using Lede Ai. Those stories received more than 600,000 page views, 440,000 unique visitors, and had just a 33-percent bounce rate.

Some stories received 4,000 or more page views, largely due to organic social sharing from fans that were responding to the results, which Richland Source published before everyone in the market.

The results were achieved with no paid marketing nor social media promotion, according to project leadership.

The revenue strategy for local newsrooms that use Lede Ai has evolved into a three-act play.

  1. Regional sponsorships of season-long coverage.

  2. Programmatic advertising for out-of-market games.

  3. Membership / subscription strategies centered on exclusive content and analysis.

“Each organization will approach the revenue question differently depending on their strengths and their needs, but we developed Lede Ai from the beginning to be a tool that served readers, newsrooms and revenue teams,” Richland Source President Jay Allred says.

Some markets, Abundat Founder / CEO Evan Ryan says, may be better suited to programmatic revenue strategies. Others may see opportunities for wide-ranging regional sponsorships. Smaller, more isolated markets will likely find that a combination serves them best.

“Our mission is to give local newsrooms superpowers,” Allred says, “Lede Ai lets local sports editors shift their outlook from scarcity to abundance. They can cover dozens or hundreds of games a night now at a fraction of the cost. That serves the reader. When the revenue teams catch up and bring the opportunity to sponsors, we believe the sky is the limit.

“Journalism identifies problems and ideally finds potential solutions. Lede Ai gave us the chance to turn the focus on ourselves. We think the future of update-based news is in products like Lede Ai.”