How Richland Source got Newsroom Superpowers in 2018

The sports brief you’ll see below was written by the artificial intelligence algorithms at Lede Ai for Richland Source, a small independent digital newsroom that covers three counties in north central Ohio. Using only ten data points, we reported exactly what happened. No more, no less, with just a little color added so it reads like a human wrote it. This was a playoff game, and Massillon Washington was a rude party guest for the Wadsworth faithful, so Lede Ai reported it as such.

No human in the Richland Source newsroom even knew this article was published until it was shared on Facebook by fans of both teams. The staff were in bed. Asleep. In fact, Richland Source published over 100 other articles that night, all similar to this. Lede Ai did it all for them.

This single article was read over 4,000 times and generated programmatic advertising revenues of +/- $10.00.

Massillon Washington is anything but pleasant in rude treatment of Wadsworth

by Richland Source Sports Desk

Massillon Washington could use an Emily Post tutorial in manners, but its competitive spirit was fine-tuned while punishing Wadsworth 41-19 in Division II Ohio high school football action on Friday night.

The Tigers opened with a 7-0 advantage over the Grizzlies through the first quarter. Massillon Washington's offense darted to a 24-10 lead over Wadsworth at halftime. The Tigers carried a 27-12 lead into the fourth quarter.

This marked the Grizzlies first loss of the season, as they completed a 12-1 campaign. Massillon sports a 13-0 mark heading to the state semifinals.

The OHSAA releases the state semifinal pairings and locations on Sunday.

the lede ai Mission

Simple. Give local newsrooms superpowers.

We believe the news media is more vital than ever before. We also know that the economic reality of the internet has made it more difficult than ever before to do the crucial accountability and enterprise reporting that only human beings can do, while still delivering the basic information that readers want and need.

Lede Ai exists to fill that gap. We do the boring stuff. We make life easier for your editor. We create reliable, readable, accurate local content that your readers want, but newsrooms just don’t have resources to do anymore.

Lede Ai lets a newsroom be one hundred places at once. That’s a superpower. That’s what we do at Lede Ai.

How does lede ai write a sports article?

Our AI gets a crowd-sourced box score from a high school sporting event, determines if the data is accurate, and, if so, writes and publishes a story. All of our content is published with proper SEO tags, website paging and sorting, crediting and article tracking.


Let’s break this down

Where do we get our data?

We use real-time crowdsourced data from a leading provider that serves thousands of communities and hundreds of thousands of users. People at the game on which we are reporting use an app to update the box score during the game. All of that user data is run through filters and algorithms for accuracy, and ultimately creates the information Lede Ai uses.

How do we determine if our data is accurate?

In over 12,000 articles published by Richland Source in 2018, there were exactly zero reported inaccuracies.

There are some common “tells” if the data isn’t accurate. For example, if a football team scored more than 20 points in one quarter and 0 in the other 3, the final score is probably correct, but chances are, the individual quarter scores are incorrect, and fans only updated one quarter to reflect the entire game. In that case, an article would look like this:

Johnstown Northridge finally dismisses Hebron Lakewood in a spectacular multiple-overtime victory

By Richland Source Sports desk

Thrill-seekers found a home when Johnstown Northridge needed multiple overtimes to nip Hebron Lakewood 23-20 at Johnstown Northridge High on September 14 in Ohio high school football action.

In this case, our AI feels confident that the score was 23-20, but isn’t confident in the quarterly box score. That’s okay. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and, in fact, Google ranks 40-word briefs higher than 80 word briefs in search.

Writing the story

Our AI is trained to analyze over 100 different factors in any game. Once it determines what happened, it leans on previous reporting to write a clear, concise, human-readable, and often entertaining, article.

And then what happens?

Automatic publishing for optimal clicks, reads, and exposure

In most cases Lede Ai turns the article into HTML-rich code, properly SEO-tags our article, credits the author, publishes to the CMS automatically. We automatically publish to the TownNews BLOX API as well as WordPress.

Because most news organizations are registered Google News sites, Lede Ai content is given priority and trusted. Richland Source sees first page organic results and first page Google News results within 30 minutes of publication. Almost immediately, the clicks start rolling in.

What happened when we started cross-publishing to multiple sites?

Richland Source has two sister sites, Ashland Source and Knox Pages. When we began to cross-publish unique stories on all three sites, they became three of the top search results on Google. Instead of having only one outlet (Richland Source) compete against all other newsrooms for clicks, these three outlets combined to dominate the Google search rankings purely because we were faster to publication, more accurate, and had shorter articles overall. The three outlets ended up competing with each other for the top spot in Google Search, with the other two getting placed search result 2 and search result 3.

Before cross-publishing, Richland Source was search result 1, Competitor 1 was search result 2, and Competitor 2 was search result 3.

After, Richland Source was search result 1, Ashland Source (owned by Richland Source) was search result 2, and Knox Pages (owned by Richland Source) was search result 3. Competitor 1 was search result 4.

They crushed their competition, didn’t do any additional work and it didn’t cost anything extra.

Instead of just having the largest and most complete high school sports coverage across the state, they now have three outlets with that same level of coverage. The Source brands don’t just have the best coverage, they have the first, second and third best coverage.

The “long tail” in action

Full disclosure: most sports briefs don’t go viral like the Massillon example. In the case of Richland Source, their strategy was to scale coverage and drive traffic through SEO. They leveraged the speed and accuracy of Lede Ai to be first to market with relevant local news. Search engines rewarded that by acting quickly to recognize and feature the content when users searched upon it.

In most cases, traffic peaked from about an hour after games ended and carried through the next morning, after which it fell.

Critically, as the catalog of games piled up over time (over 12,000 at this writing) the “long tail” effect came into play. The first 24 hours looks very similar day to day for fresh content. What we didn’t expect was that the number of articles receiving at least one visit continued to climb week after week, month after month.

This “long tail” effect means the aggregate number of page visits continues to grow, even today.

How did the newsroom react?

Initially, there was understandable skepticism about how this would all turn out, but that changed quickly once the news and revenue teams began to see results. Editors appreciated the ease of use and expanded coverage. The revenue team immediately saw massive opportunities for statewide sponsorships backed up by reliable programmatic ad revenue.

One example stands out. The high schools Richland Source covers put six teams into 2018 high school football playoffs. The Source has a multi-skilled newsroom, but even with all hands on deck they could only cover four of the six games with a human being. This was complicated further because several of the games were to be played hours away from HQ.

They turned to Lede Ai. The lead editor assigned reporters to four of the six games as usual. Then, while reporters were filing stories and uploading photos, the editor pulled Lede Ai briefs, made a couple of calls for quotes and uploaded crowdsourced photography. By midnight, the Richland Source newsroom had done the impossible and had feature stories on all six games PLUS briefs on every other game played that night.

Readers were happy, athletes were grateful, and the numbers were through the roof.

Lede Ai financial results from fall 2018

Lede Ai charges $200/mo and $4.00/article produced and delivered.

For the beta test group, clients were invoiced for articles that got greater than 10 or more page views within 30 days of publication. Those receiving less than 10 page views were not invoiced.

During the 2018 HS football season, Richland Source published:

1,866 total articles

148,700 total page views.

1,166 had greater than 10 views and were invoiced

700 had less than 10 views and were free

They served three programmatic display positions on each article @ $2.00 CPM

Here’s how that broke down.

Programmatic ad revenues: $892.20

Expenses: $4,664 ($4.00/article * 1166 articles)

Income: -$3,771.80 (and we covered the whole state)

Note: we did NOT do the following:

  1. Cut any freelance costs

  2. Get any outside sponsorships

  3. Do any article promotion, paid or even on our social media for free.

Interested in learning more? Drop us a line; we’ll be in touch.