This contest recognizes the best in local digital media in 16 categories such as best local website, best virtual event, best branded content strategy and more. It is a highly competitive contest designed to recognize both large and small media companies for their outstanding and innovative work.
Thank you to our presenting sponsor, Second Street,
and all of our category sponsors.
Best Local Website
This award recognizes the best all-around local media websites. Judges will consider all aspects including user and customer experience, site design and organization, brand continuity, content (is it local and relevant?), use of photos, graphics and video, opportunities for user engagement, presentation of advertising, mobile adaptability, and more.
Less than 250,000:
1st Place: Public Source
Judge’s comments: Public Source’s commitment to being a credible source of information for — and by — the Pittsburg community is unparalleled. The option for readers to submit first-person essays and interact with the outlet in various ways, like specialized newsletters and the Public Source’s podcast, is vital. Above that, website navigation is intuitive and articles are clearly- and artistically-designed.
2nd Place: Montana Free Press
3rd Place: Beat Media Inc. dba Triad City Beat
More than 250,000:
1st Place: Out There Colorado
Judge’s comments: Out There Colorado’s website is engaging right off the bat. The homepage features a multitude of photos paired with articles, which are well-spaced out on the page and feature intriguing headlines. Ads are integrated into the website’s design seamlessly, which also contributes to how clean the website appears. I appreciate how intuitive Out There Colorado’s “shop” is and found the shopping experience to be very straight-forward.
2nd Place: Click2Houston
3rd Place: WSLS 10
Best Social Media Engagement Strategy, Sponsored by Social News Desk
This award recognizes the most successful and creative plans for leveraging social media to expand audience and heighten engagement.
WINNNER: Univision 45 Houston
Judge’s notes: Univision has gone far beyond merely displaying posts on Twitter and Instagram using a digitization strategy which has resulted in exponential growth since 2020. Readers can weigh in on the stories that matter to them while showcasing unheard voices, new perspectives and untold angles on compelling stories. There’s an effective integration of TV and Digital, with reporters and producers leveraging their individual social media platforms to bring in new followers and increase audience engagement.
Best Audience Listening Strategy
This award recognizes the collective efforts of a newsroom to create a strategy around listening to audiences and what changes were made to newsroom strategy as a result of those listening efforts. This strategy could be a new product or tool meant to gather audience input, a reader survey, an event series, or some other content type focused on listening.
Judge’s notes: WDIV-TV/ClickOnDetroit / Covid coverage- Insider surveys provided comprehensive good visual and viewer feedback which could help lead coverage
Best Product Initiative
Launching a new digital initiative takes time and resources, so this award showcases the best use of both that drove positive results. This broad category can encompass a public-facing or internal digital initiative launched in the last year, such as streaming/OTT/CTV, podcasting, virtual reality, insight selling, custom CMS, or something new and emerging. Judges will look at how the initiative was planned, executed, and whether company goals were met because of the initiative.
250,000 or less monthly unique visitors:
1st Place: Check Out DFW
2nd Place: Discover Mediaworks
3rd Place: News4Jax (WJXT/WCWJ)
250,001 and above monthly unique visitors:
1st Place: News 12 Digital
2nd Place: WSLS 10
3rd Place: KSAT
Best Digital News Project
The award for best digital news project is given to entries that display captivating, innovative, and intentional storytelling. This can be a single piece, a collection, or an ongoing journalism series. This category looks to recognize journalism that is deep but also designed thoughtfully.
750,000 monthly unique visitors and less
1ST Place: VNN
Judge’s comments: Using animations and illustrations in a video to tell the story was very innovative and got the point across well, using archival audio and other records they had. The publication of the transcript and images was also effective and allowed more people to engage with the story if they couldn’t (or didn’t want to) watch a video.
2nd Place: PublicSource
Judge’s comments: The story was very compelling and well-reported, and the use of lots of photos to explain what is going on in the town and the effects of the factory is incredibly immersive and connects the reader to the story and the locale, whether or not they live nearby.
3rd Place: Wisconsin Watch
Judge’s comments: Wisconsin Watch did a really great job on this ongoing series along with the Anchorage Daily News to tell the story of a doctor falsely alleging that parents were abusing their infants. Several photos were included, along with other visuals such as charts and audio versions of the stories, which created a multimedia experience allowing users to consume the stories in a way that made sense for them while pulling them into the story.
750,001 monthly unique visitors and more
1st Place: WKMG-TV/WKMG-TV News 6
Judge’s comments: “Solutionaries.” The idea to create a nonlinear viewing/news consumption series is a great idea and keeps people engaged with the content and allows them to engage with what matters most to them. The Prezi presentation was a great way to do it, but the Solutionaries page and each individual story/topic being separated into different components was an interesting idea and allows consumers to learn about issues that are important to them while also finding out how to take action.
2nd Place: News 12 Digital
Judge’s comments: “Failing Foundations.” This story exemplified digital news, combining maps, graphics, photos, video and strong storytelling to alert the local community to hazards in the area. News 12 incorporated dam inspection databases as well so readers can see if the dams near them are safe or when they were last inspected. The interviews and flow were great, and the user experience was easy and enjoyable.
3rd Place: Times Union
Judge’s comments: The story was really well-written and accompanied by great recent and archival images. It felt engaging and interactive and explains a something about Albany that locals and non-locals alike can care about–and is easy for all to understand. The maps, graphs and interactives were also incredibly helpful, and the “How Albany was Redlined” map demonstrated how early comments shaped the city. It was a streamlined experience and keeps readers engaged while remaining easy to navigate.
Best Reader Revenue Strategy, Sponsored by BlueLena
This award recognizes exceptional strategy and execution of a new consumer revenue initiative. This can include digital subscriptions, membership, e-commerce, targeted marketing, and other local media revenue opportunities.
1st Place: The Keene Sentinel
Judge’s notes: The Keene Sentinel came up with a creative idea to partner with local businesses and give new subscribers multiple incentives, and the rentention rate has been high, even when the offers expire.
2nd Place: Shaw Media
Judge’s notes: Shaw Media’s tactics to ensure the entire newsroom considers audience and consumer revenue are a great step. Having the editorial staff fluent in analytics and weekly distribution of conversation metrics is great, and restructuring to place digital first and keep users coming back to the site has been effective with increased open and reengagement rates, as well as the 35.7% increase in digital subscriptions.
3rd Place: Montana Free Press
Judge’s notes: The creation of a new email newsletter that would test audience development principles both helped MTFP readers and casual users understand their community better and generated revenue and new revenue opportunities for the organization. The crowdfunding was aggressive and successful, and the amount raised in just a week shows that they were developing something their audience wanted. Additionally, increasing staff numbers to improve the product and move readers down the funnel shows continued dedication to their goals, and the 721 new donors and $375,000 in revenue is a strong indication that the strategy has worked.
Best Contest and/or Promotion, Sponsored by Upland
This award will recognize a contest or promotion that was above and beyond expectations.
1st Place: Toledo Blade
Judge’s notes: It generated a good amount of revenue and also encouraged people to really go to bat and vote for their favorite local spots. They also secured a strong sponsor and utilized lots of marketing strategies, including building around an upcoming event in Toledo.
2nd Place: WKMG-TV News 6
Judge’s notes: It was really great that they built their contest around a part of the news and programming that viewers really care about–weather. Bringing in the winner and having the prize given to them by a weather forecaster was a great touch.
3rd Place: Leighton Broadcasting
Judge’s notes: Their town bracket was an innovative way to engage with the community and encourage people to engage with their content. They even ended up throwing a party for the winning town and providing them with a billboard, building trust and relationships in the community while generating revenue and building on this year’s contest to earn even more next year.
Best Branded Content Strategy
Branded content is a powerful way to combine what publishers and local newsrooms do best: storytelling and helping businesses grow. This award showcases the very best in branded content initiatives.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Judge’s Notes: Atlanta and the Railroads/ and Georgia on My Plate. AJC’s layout and content were top knotch. Content was comprehensive and visually appealing. Newsworthy and entertaining. Each section was appealing
Best Philanthropy Journalism and/or Fundraising Campaign
Funding important local reporting through philanthropy and fundraising is emerging as an additional pillar to support journalism. This award seeks to highlight creative, effective fundraising efforts that have impacted local publishers’ ability to fund journalism’s critical work.
1st Place: NOLA
2nd Place Tie:
Best COVID-19 Local Community Coverage
The pandemic’s impact on local communities and the pressing need to get important information into community members’ hands enabled publishers to connect with their audiences in new ways. This award honors the best local coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak by looking at multiple examples of community-focused content bringing the reality of COVID-19 to a local area.
250,000 or less monthly unique visitors:
1st Place: Bay City News Foundation
Judge’s notes: The Bay City News Foundation stands out for its hyper-locality, commitment to the community, and approachable COVID-19 dashboard. They offer a lot of transparency to their readers by allowing users to access the “data” used for their dashboards as well. What made the Bay City News Foundation especially stand out was how many resources it offered, as well as their content dedicated to specific neighborhoods/geographic areas.
2nd Place: North Carolina Health News
3rd Place: Montana Free Press
More than 250,000 monthly unique visitors:
1st Place: PIX 11
Judge’s notes: PIX 11 features a perfect collection of local reports, national news, COVID-19 case and data tracking, and more. The range of topics that their COVID-19 section covers makes them a prime resource for any kind of reader. From community profile pieces to highlighting their old pieces from the earlier phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, rather than archiving them, the PIX 11 site stands out for the diversity and quality in their reporting.
2nd Place: KEZI 9 News
3rd Place: Tuscon TV, LLC
Best Virtual Event
Just when media companies started to get great at live events, the pandemic forced everyone to pivot again and learn how to take those events online. This award is for the best single example of a virtual event.
250,001- 750,000 monthly unique visitors
South Florida Sun Sentinel + Studio 1847
750,000 and over monthly unique visitors
The Buffalo News
Judge’s notes: BuffaloNews.com Shelf Love Book Club both used multiple content streams for comprehensive coverage of topics. Visually appealing!
Best Local Newsletter / Email Strategy, Sponsored by Social News Desk
While the death of email has been long-predicted, it’s turned into one of the most significant growth areas for many publishers, bringing with it new engagement opportunities and ways to bring in additional revenue. This award honors the best strategies related to email campaigns designed to connect local news consumers with content right in their inboxes.
250,000 or less monthly unique visitors
1st Place: Crosstown
250,001 and above monthly unique visitors
1st Place: KXLY
Judge’s Notes: In the fall of 2021, the KXLY team welcomed a meteorologist whose job was to provide more context on weather events and phenomena beyond just the daily forecast. We would frequently see high engagement on his individual online web stories and saw that there was a hunger amongst our audience for more.
That then sparked the idea of a weather newsletter that we call “The Brainstorm.” Our meteorologist Matt Gray sends this newsletter 2-3 times per week and on days where we have big, inconvenient weather (i.e. storms, snow).
2nd Place: KGW
Best R&D Partner
This award rewards partners that have been vital in helping local media companies drive new digital revenue or create efficiencies in their operations.
Winner: Second Street
Comments from the nominating companies:
Second Street is an AMAZING partner with us. Going to past Second Street Summits have given me ideas to implement at our station. Very successful campaigns! In addition, the addition of Hot Leads has been great for clients, while allowing data to be transferred safely and securely.
We’ve used the Second Street platform for years. It’s been so successful for us in driving revenue that we now have 3 people on staff just to put together the promotional campaigns that our sellers sell.
The team at Second Street continuously provides sales enablement resources, keeping opportunities and ideas front and center. They are committed to education and ideas. They have joined our in-house training sessions and helped our seller’s identify opportunities and add value for our local businesses.
Their constant innovation of their promotions platform had lead to better experience for our clients and a quicker setup time.
They have helped us grow revenue $100k+ in every market launched.
Digital Innovators of the Year
News: content and audience, Sponsored by PPI
WINNNER: Maritza L. Félix, founder and publisher of Conecta Arizona
Read the full announcement here.
Revenue/Strategy, Sponsored by Adcellerant
WINNER: Chris Bennett, publisher and CEO of Seattle Medium
Read the full announcement here.
Sales/Advertising, Sponsored by Admall
WINNERS: Martin Alfaro, director of business development for AL DÍA of Philadelphia
Lenora Howze, executive director of The AFRO of Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
Read more about each of our winners in announcements below.
Martin Alfaro, director of business development, AL DÍA of Philadelphia
Lenora Howze, executive director, The AFRO of Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
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